While Dental Assistants Recognition Week, March 1-7, 2020, may be in the rearview mirror, that doesn’t mean dental assistants don’t still deserve acknowledgment.
In fact, dental assistants’ efforts in recent months to help keep their patients and community safe are especially commendable and worth recognizing.
As most dental teams head back to work following COVID-19-related office closures, we highlight 3 key reasons to continue appreciating dental assistants for all they do — especially now.
1. You Put Patients First
Dental patients typically look to their dental assistant to be a source of comfort from the start through the duration of their dental appointment. With dental patients and staff now returning to the dental office, and perhaps feeling nervous about it, assistants serve a vital role in helping to keep everyone safe and calm. On top of comforting and educating patients about the office’s social-distancing efforts, dental assistants also should be prepared to speak to the office’s infection control policies so patients feel confident they’re receiving care in a safe environment.
Marcia B. embraces her duty to guide patients through their dental appointment during this time. “Patients are apprehensive in the dental office, and that is very understandable in this new world. Once again, the role of the dental assistant is critical when it comes to reassuring patients.”
2. You Do What’s Needed for the Practice
Dental assistants are known for going above and beyond, for the good of both patients and the practice. For many dental assistants, this recently has meant staying home to follow social-distancing recommendations from government and health officials; and for others, helping to deliver emergency dental treatment as needed while stay-at-home orders were in place.
For example, Catherine T., CDA, worked with emergency patients in an Indian Health Services clinic. Her tasks included helping to screen patients waiting in their cars and delivering medication to them in the parking lot.
“I had no problem being ‘on the front lines’ to keep patients and providers safe,” Catherine shares. “And, I can honestly say, neither did my co-workers. We are healthcare providers, just doing what needed and is still needing to be done.”
3. You’re Willing to Adapt to Change
Dental assistants are often commended for their ability to think on their feet during a fast-paced workday, expertly navigating any challenge that comes their way. COVID-19 certainly tested dental assistants’ resilience over the past few months. Now, as dental teams start seeing more patients again, dental assistants are helping to implement social-distancing and heightened infection control protocols in the dental office, including following universal personal protective equipment (PPE) recommendations during the COVID-19 pandemic from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Anne W. and her colleagues have embraced these changes to keep everyone safe: “I’ve been a little warm with wearing all the PPE, but my team is adapting as always.”
Dental assistant educators also have demonstrated admirable flexibility during this time — with many teaching from home versus in the classroom, and utilizing virtual learning methods to do so.
“Online learning pushes people out of their comfort zone, myself included,” says Shannon S., a college dental assisting instructor. “Students are becoming more comfortable and proficient with the online learning platform we’re using, as am I.
“There’s a benefit to telecommuting for students in that a lot of things are done that way in the corporate, ‘real’ world, so this type of learning gives students exposure to conducting business remotely,” Shannon continues. “But with dentistry, there’s that critical human component — so in that respect, teaching and learning dental assisting during this time has been a little bit difficult. An online class can be convenient, but takes a little more self-discipline for students.”
For dental assisting educator Yinka B., CDA, the transition to online learning has been mostly smooth for her students. “They are resilient when it comes to technology altogether,” she says. “They know how to use it.”
Dental assistants, we appreciate all that you do, especially now.