In an effort to stem the spread of COVID-19 and help keep communities safe, public health authorities have emphasized the need for physical distancing among community members. According to Health Canada, physical distancing refers to keeping space between yourself and other people outside of your home. We’re currently required to keep at least six feet apart from other people, to stay out of crowded places, and to avoid mass gatherings.
To protect the health and safety of your patients and team members, it’s mandatory to implement new regulations in your practice. It’s common knowledge that dental practices currently offering emergency services are obligated to meet required safety precautions and have proper personal protective equipment (PPE) in place to safely treat patients. Along with revised safety and PPE regulations, physical distancing protocols will be enforced for the foreseeable future.
So, how do you properly prepare for physical distancing in your practice?
Prepare your Team
Communicating with your team to discuss ways of handling physical distancing in the practice is the first step. It’s important to set reasonable and appropriate expectations that you and your team can meet. By focusing on a plan for success, it will empower the team to understand what they are working to accomplish. Once a plan is devised, it’s important to ensure that all team members understand clearly what’s expected.
Prepare Your PPE
Prior to reopening the practice, it’s essential to take an inventory of PPE and use this number to help prepare for the volume of care that can be provided. Along with following PPE protocols, new regulations require staff to immediately change into scrubs and indoor footwear upon entering the practice. It’s also important to advise them to change out of their scrubs prior to leaving work each day. It’s possible for clothing to be contaminated with COVID-19, so taking the appropriate steps to ensure the safety of team members and patients is crucial.
Prepare the Practice
You will have to limit the number of staff and patients in the practice at one time, while maintaining proper social distancing measures. Discuss with your team the best way to conduct morning meetings. Implement new rules regarding staggered shifts, breaks and lunches when possible. Your waiting room will also look different. Be sure to remove at least half of the chairs available for patients and space them properly to follow the physical distancing guidelines. You should also remove any non-essential items in the common area, including magazines, pamphlets, educational resources, etc. This can be an ideal opportunity to implement in-office TV’s to showcase services, educational information, and safety precautions for patients.
Advise patients returning to the practice to arrive at the exact time of their scheduled appointment. It’s important to have them wait in their car or outside if they happen to arrive early. This can avoid over-crowding in the waiting room and help to alleviate any potential risk. Anyone accompanying a patient to the appointment should wait outside and be contacted by phone when the appointment is finished. Also, advising new patients to fill out registration and health history forms online will minimize the time spent in common areas of the practice.
The future of your practice is in your hands. It may be difficult to have a positive outlook on what happens next but being prepared and optimistic about the future is necessary. Every practice is different and the solutions to reopen will be as well. Step back, slow down, and think about how best to move forward efficiently and safely.
Health Canada Physical Distancing Poster: https://www.canada.ca/content/dam/phac-aspc/documents/services/publications/diseases-conditions/coronavirus/social-distancing/social-distancing-eng.pdf
Click here for a comprehensive Practice Reopening Checklist.
Please refer to your local regulatory bodies, ministries of labor and public health units for the most up-to-date information on health and safety protocols and procedures.