And take a moment to reflect on some of the positive aspects of our profession that have become so difficult to see at a time when we hear so many people bemoaning dentistry and in particular NHS dentistry.
As dental life returns to something like normal it is good to take some time to reflect on what has happened over the past two years in dentistry and perhaps even congratulate ourselves as a healthcare profession who stepped up and have been there for our patients in as much as we could, despite all of the challenges.
How many times since that fateful day in March 2020 has our contractual structure, framework, targets, method of remuneration and Standard Operating Procedures changed, often with very little notice? However, we continued to work throughout, with a willingness to respond to our patient’s needs, learning a different type of (remote) dentistry and then gradually switching back again, eventually opening our doors to welcome our (masked) patients back again. And let’s not forget how NHS dentists were supported financially by the NHS throughout.
So what have we, or actually I, learned from all of this? What are my positive reflections as we move ‘back to normal?’
Well firstly it has been an amazing experience meeting so many more people thanks to FaceTime, Zoom, Teams, or whatever your preference, than we could normally reach if we had to physically travel. Many of those relationships I have made have become good friendships now that we can all meet in person and use the phrase ‘just checking you haven’t got your pyjama bottoms on’… oh dear!
We all know that communicating is key in our profession but what we didn’t realise is how good we would be at communicating remotely and this has encouraged us to ‘blend’ many aspects of our professional and family live to maximise what we do with our time. This includes our learning and professional development (CPD) to ensure that as a profession we work hard (and it has been hard), learn as much as possible (and we have learned a lot) but also making sure that we maintain a work-life balance. Here at Rodericks, we made sure that our Clinical Newsletter has as wide a reach as possible which enabled us to help our teams understand the ‘why’s, what’s and what if’s’. We shared information, education, learning, as well as hints & tips and positive stories from our teams in our practices and we know that this helped everyone feel connected to each other.
For us it gave us the opportunity to share how our dental teams are engaging more widely with our society and their communities continuing with charity work focussing on education and prevention for many hard to reach groups, which has been wonderful to witness (and actually an excellent modelling for flexible commissioning, Commissioners take note!).
There is a lot of research that reminds us that one of the key features of job satisfaction is in doing something that is valued by society and as dental healthcare professionals this is at the heart of what we do, even as I have said when the circumstances can be challenging.
We know that support is key to ensuring that we succeed as a profession and it is vital that our teams feel that support and know where to find and how to access it. Early careers support for young dental graduates is vital to help nurture the skills needed for a lifelong career in this profession and I am proud to have created a supportive early careers scheme within Rodericks that really does bridge the gap from Foundation Dentist Training, to help all our young dentists gain the skills which will underpin all their future career goals and to be able to succeed.
So how do we know if we have succeeded on our journey out of this pandemic?
Everyone has their own definition of what success looks and feels like for them but for me it’s all about patient care and working with others to make this happen. The NHS system may not be where we all want it to be, but it will change and it certainly doesn’t prevent us from caring for patients and working with partners like the Oral Health Foundation to make a difference.
Earlier in my career I had the great fortune to work with Sue Gregory who as National Head of Dental Public Health and Deputy CDO introduced us to the first toolkit of ‘Delivering Better Oral Health’ in 2007. This was a legacy and for me the definition of success in what we can do as dental healthcare professionals to help patients. We all use this toolkit as an enabler to strive to be successful each and every day no matter if we are providing NHS, private or mixed dental services… so for me a measure of success will always be about achieving our goals, our individual values and guiding principles and of course our patients!
To discover more about the Rodericks family and our practices visit our website www.rodericksdental.co.uk