We all know what a difficult time it is to be a business owner during COVID-19. Many businesses, including some dentists, have had to close their doors. It is devastating. But, it has also been uniquely challenging for associate dentists. For an associate dentist, even prior to COVID-19, finding a good “home” that is a great mutual fit could be very arduous. But now that owner dentists and corporations have taken this hit, many associate dentists have been let go.
Many of those owners are needing to take more of what they may have shared to make up for some of what was lost. As a result, many associate dentists have found themselves completely jobless. Who would have thought after spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on school to become a dentist, you would end up unemployed?
Now, for available associate positions, there are in some cases ten or more applicants for employers to choose from. That aspect is great for business owners but not for the associate dentists. Unfortunately, the decreased production of offices in many cases combined with the increased applicant pool also means the offers may be inadequate and/or less negotiable. And of those opportunities, how many of them are actually a great mutual fit? There were already numerous factors to consider for what makes a great mutual fit, but now there is also the consideration of COVID-19 safety.
First day back to work in months. Ready to work in the safest manner. My daily PPE is a gown, N95 or KN95 mask covered with a surgical mask, 2 layered bonnets, loupes, gloves, and a face shield for aerosol procedures. I wear a button so my patients can see who is providing their care.
I am wearing the face shield upside down because I and other doctors found that with the direction of the aerosols, wearing the shield this way seemed to block the same if not more spatter in addition to allowing access to the orange light filter on loupes and having enough clearance to go over loupes.
Every office has different protocol, different PPE, and different levels of enforcement. As associate dentists we can ask for things, but it is not our decision. The N95 masks may be uncomfortable at times, but I am not complaining. I am grateful to have that mandatory protection, which I personally opt to wear all day.
When COVID-19 hit, I was in a particularly atypical situation. After a few associateships, I became a locum tenens provider. Because locum tenens positions are not frequently available in my local area, this involved traveling to different places out of town, staying away from home for a week or weeks at a time. Temporary positions are unpredictable and started to decrease just before COVID-19 struck and even more so after. I did not work for months. Once dentistry in Texas was allowed to resume beyond emergency procedures, I decided it was time to seek something more stable and sustained again.
Over the months of 2020 I completed more interviews than I did in my entire prior lifetime. Fortunately, I am filled with hope as I found my next associateship, which I have just begun. I hope that during these difficult times we think not only of how trying they are for ourselves, but how nearly everyone has been affected in some way. “Look not only to [your] own interests, but also to the interests of others.”
Being compassionate, considerate, and fair with others and to yourself can go a long way towards mutual prosperity.
Kelsey Garza D.D.S.
To be most vigilant, I keep my N95 or KN95 mask on all day, unless I have the opportunity to be completely alone. It has been trial and error with different products to see what works best to help my skin. But, I am still grateful that Texas mandated the use of these masks for aerosol procedures and that I have this protection.