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How to deal with fear and uncertainty?

Regardless of the levels of success, competency, or experience, at one time or another, almost every dental staff experiences professional fears and moments of doubt. For instance, currently, the novel Coronavirus is a case study of uncertainty. No dental staff can predict how long the pandemic, or fear of the pandemic will ultimately affect their job or the economy.

In fact, for dental workers who may have already been facing other kinds of work-related fears, Coronavirus plays in the background as an extra source of stress. See, the uncertainty about the COVID-19 does not end at the workplace – it is a 24/7 concern dental workers have for themselves as well as their friends, family, and community.    

Let’s explore more about these fears and how dental staff can stay ahead of them. Read on.

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The fear of exposure to coronavirus

Working from home helps curb the spread of COVID-19, but not every profession or sector can actualize that. One example is dentistry.

Dental hygienists, dental assistants, dentists, and other dental staff face a high risk of occupational exposure to the disease. Yes, some might argue, why worry while there are relatively practical ways to prescreen patients before attending to them? By asking them questions about their travel in the last few days, taking their temperature, checking if they got flu-like symptoms, just to name a few.  However, it is good to understand that not every patient will be honest. Some may answer “no” to those queries, and they might not be showing any flu-symptoms, yet they are infected.  

Patients’ sneezes and coughs aren’t the only ways dental staff can contact the virus either. In dentistry, some procedures are carried out via an ultrasonic scaler to clean the teeth or a headpiece to drill a tooth. The water used in these procedures may form an aerosol. Usually, if you aerosolize anything, it is going to hang in the air. That means if the patient has the virus, contacting it will be extremely easy - a risky and sad affair for dental staff.

Staying ahead

Dental professionals can take several precautions to curb their exposure to infections when at work. First, the American Dental Association (ADA), on March 16, 2020, issued some guidance to dentists and dental professionals concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ADA has already recognized the unique circumstances dental practitioners are in during this period. As such, it was sensible for the association to be concerned with their well being. 

To mitigate the spread of the virus, the ADA has recommended dental staff nationwide to suspend elective procedures at least for the next twenty-one days. They (dental workers) should only focus on emergency dental care. You can get more information on how to prevent yourself from CONVID-19 pandemic on ADA’s or the CDC’s website.

Secondly, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has some advice for dental staff on how to minimize the risk of contracting infectious diseases like COVID-19. First, before you access any examining room, ensure that all surfaces like countertops, dental chairs, and dental handles have been disinfected. Also, opt to cover dental equipment with protective covers, which can be replaced after seeing each patient.   

What’s more, make an effort of sterilizing non-disposable dental tools every time before they are used. Disposable tools like needles, on the other hand, should never be reused. Lastly, use proper protective equipment such as eyewear, gowns, and masks (N95 respirator-type masks) when needed. Remember, after handling each patient, disposable masks and gowns should be thrown away.

Fear of job loss and income  

Dental practice closures and reduced hours are things that will likely affect dental staff financially, especially if they are hourly employees. While there has been an endless fear about the effect of COVID-19 on hourly workers in the service and food industries, professionals such as dental hygienists and assistants could be at risk as well.      

The ADA has seen numerous inquiries from hygienists concerned about the actual impact of the pandemic on their compensation and employment, according to American Dental Hygienist Association president Matt Crespin.

Remember, when dental workers don’t feel secure in their job, negative emotions and increased stress impact their work performance. They may stop putting the needed effort into completing even simple office tasks and interacting with coworkers, due to the belief that they have no future with the dental office.

So, what now? What is the way forward?

When the inevitable happens, and you lose your job, try not to panic.  There are few measures you can take and beat the crisis hands down.

First, it is good to note there is a $2 trillion stimulus package bill that is being discussed to provide some financial aid to gig workers, freelancers, and independent contractors. As part of the bill, gig workers should be eligible to seek unemployment benefits. More so, the bill would allow unemployed workers to get federal assistance of $600 per week for up to four months.

Secondly, believe you me this crisis will come to an end soon - at least, in a few months’ time. This is the best time to update your resume so that when the situation gets back to normal, you will be better positioned to land a new job quickly. Possibly, there will be many dental job openings available when this crisis ends.

As some might think, though, sending physical C.V copies to dental practices might not help much.  With this social distancing initiative, everything should be done online. Currently, there are numerous online networks and platforms that connect dental staff with dental offices. One example of that platform is Cloud Dentistry. Having your own space online to create and market your personal brand makes you noticeable, inviting potential employers to learn more about you. Cloud Dentistry provides that space, guaranteeing you an incredibly visible way to display your qualifications, experiences, and your reviews from the dental offices you have worked with.

Fear that you made the wrong career choice  

Perhaps, you have realized that your so-called “dream job” isn’t as perfect as you imagined it to be. Thanks to the coronavirus pandemic!

Most common among younger dental staff early in their professions, this fear results from feeling like you made a wrong decision. Denial, repression, fear, and several other factors might come into play, and it can take years to accept the truth. 

This can zap your enthusiasm to assume your dental roles well. Besides that, it can lead to endless whining and complaining. And as you might be aware, unexpressed frustration can, in the long run, cause blow-up behavior like unnecessary confrontations or suddenly quitting your job – all things unlikely to help you boost your career.

Make the absolute most of your decision

Whenever you make any decision, get yourself into it completely. After all, a career decision that called for so much thought and consultation merits a high level of dedication. Appreciate the ups and downs that come with the dental profession and learn to cope with unexpected situations.  In short, capitalizing on your decisions is the ideal way to progress career-wise and continue to build opportunities for yourself.

Fear of not meeting goals

Also, referred to as perfectionism, falling short is a prevalent fear among dental employees who set unrealistic goals for themselves. When they don’t realize those impossible goals, they worry about being seen as incompetent.

The fear of imperfection, many a time, can lead to rarely feeling fulfilled or accomplished. See, a fixation on every modest detail can lead to things like missed deadlines and isolation since colleagues avoid working with them on assignments.

How to deal with it

We all desire to achieve our best, and no employee likes turning in an assignment with faults. However, sometimes, simple mistakes can seem, in our own judgment, like enormous obstacles. Again, a time like now when everybody's operating in fear as a result of Coronavirus pandemic, mistakes are unavoidable.  

It is easy to be preoccupied with all the negative things happening around, but just because your mind is telling you something, it doesn’t mean it is true. When we contemplate fear and failure, we usually dramatize outcomes. “If I don’t complete this task on time, my contract will be terminated and will never get another job,” you imagine. As a way to avoid not trying at all, you try and persuade yourself that the worst will happen.

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Dental staff must train themselves to think critically and positively. Regardless of how complex the assignment is, first take a moment to envisage success. Then take another moment to visualize all the potential challenges you may come across. You should always shine a light on your fears in order to overcome them.

Secondly, it is good to understand that failure is part of the learning process. Did you that the renowned queen of television talk show Oprah Winfrey was fired from her first television job? Or that Michael Jordan was cut from his varsity basketball team during his sophomore year?

The most vital lesson you can learn from the above is that failure is a normal thing and can happen to anybody. Actually, many successful personalities attribute their achievement to their failures – Mark Cuban, J.K Rowling, Walt Disney, to name a few.      

Uncertain times for dental staff

In anxious moments like these, there are various forms of fear - irrational fear associated with panic, like purchasing large quantities of toilet paper, and normal or rational fear linked to evidence and common sense.    

Dental staff’s fear for their job, income, and health is legitimate.

However, at such a time, it is good to practice the art of holding back panic and negative emotions. Also, you must be more agile, self-aware, and an ardent explorer of the available opportunities, regardless of the crisis we are in. Finally, concentrate on what you can control to produce the much-needed results for yourself and the dental practice you serve.

Well, we would like to hear. What is your biggest fear currently? How exactly are you planning to bust through it?