It’s as if I’m trying to thread a needle wearing boxing gloves while driving through very thick fog.
That was how her first week back at work was described to me by a client yesterday.
Reactions from my client community to week #1 with new SOPs and PPE have been perversely consistent, with many describing the discomfort and difficulty of clinical delivery in terms perhaps less descriptive but similar to those expressed above.
Equally, the fact that they may have started off with overly high expectations of patient flow and underestimating the time it has taken patients, team and clinicians to adjust.
There are a few more issues that are manifesting themselves very quickly:
continued difficulties and delays in the procurement of PPE. Most of it is getting through but some has been shipped and then lost (for the moment) in the logistics chain, as delivery companies strain under the pressure of increased demand;
there's a rapid reckoning when it comes to both team members and self-employed clinicians;
As far as team members are concerned, those who have been off the bus during lockdown are showing little enthusiasm for the return to work. As I've said many times in recent weeks, that's fine and I encourage my clients to receive the message of zero support and act upon it. I'm seeing redundancies already and they are easy to pick;
Self-employed clinicians are demonstrating similar behaviours and, to be negative for a moment, I'm hearing distressing stories of associates refusing to return to work part-time and suggesting they will stay at home until a full book can be guaranteed;
However, let me say that on a positive note, there are team members and self-employed who are manifesting themselves as heroes. Nothing is too much trouble and "how best can I help?" In simple terms, the gap between the "can do's" and "don't want to's" has widened.
There's one issue that bears a seperate and serious consideration - and that's the continued mental health of all concerned, owners, managers, team and self-employed.
Lockdown hasn't been a rest or a holiday.
Every one of my clients has been working flat out all the way through the last 12 weeks, whether it's been trying to make sense of the debate, studying endless SOPs, securing PPE, staying connected with patients and team, redesigning their workflow and attending more webinars and Zoom calls than ever imagined.
As dentistry returns to work, owners (and some managers) are turning up at the start line of the metaphoric marathon I mentioned last week - but they are doing so in a state of exhaustion.
It's not a good start.
The summer is here. There are no holidays in sight for the foreseeable and you are now under pressure to get your head down and go until Christmas.
I don't think that is sustainable.
So my advice to clients this week is to look at their calendar from now until Christmas and to book at the very least two 7-day holidays between now and then.
It matters not whether you manage to catch a flight to Greece or a cottage holiday in The Lakes, the psychological need is to have those two events to aim at.
I've long been a believer that holiday weeks are oases in the desert that make the struggles of the journey manageable.
Many are already under pressure from families who have felt neglected during lockdown. If you now disappear off to the practice with a "see you at Christmas" message, it's going to cause trouble. I don't think you will make it.
Here's my message this morning. Take out your calendar for the rest of 2020 and get those two weeks booked in. You can sort out where you are going later (it might just be the back garden but better to get away and get off the grid).
Then get back to work, at least knowing that you have something to look forward to.
Otherwise, starting this marathon whilst banjaxed and with no end in sight will break you.
Finally, a little bit of good news.
Return to work dentistry isn't easy but it will get better. Just hang in there - you can do this and I've got your back.