On a typical day, since the start of this mayhem, my in-box is flooded with hundreds of emails and webinar invitations about dentistry and COVID-19. There is SO much information out there referencing practice management, clinical protocols, recommendations, and guidelines that I feel like my brain is exploding, I just can’t process it all. To throw a twist into it—because, hey, that’s what makes it fun—is the fact that what was once relevant becomes irrelevant in the blink of an eye. You know what I mean.
I am a frequent flier listener to the Jocko Podcast, which is hosted by retired Navy Seal extraordinaire, Jocko Willink. I find his cut-and-dried approach to life and business intriguing and applicable because it’s not weighed down with dental rhetoric. I hear what needs to be heard—not just what I want to hear.
During a recent episode, he posed this question to his guest, another Navy Seal: “What do you do in a situation where you have information overload?” His guest responded: “Simple. You detach, prioritize, and execute.”
Detach. Prioritize. Execute. Three simple words. Is it really that easy? Let’s apply it to dentistry.
Emotions are high for, well, just about everyone. We’re stuck at home going stir-crazy because every day seems like the day before. The repetition muddles our logic and decision-making capacity. The three questions posed earlier keep rolling around in our heads, and it’s as if we are spinning in a circle getting dizzier and dizzier with zero navigational ability to escape. This is no bueno. We must detach. We have to sort fact from opinion, weigh in on the good and the bad, and—most importantly—detach and clear our minds. By doing this, we see the situation for what it is, not for what it was, could, or should be.
This clearing process is different for everyone. For me, I put on a pair of running shoes and climb a mountain. For others, it may be yoga, playing music, meditation, spending time with family, etc. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer. Find your zen. If you don’t have one, then do some exploring even if it means hearing “The Sound of Silence” (figuratively, of course; thank you, Simon and Garfunkel) and not listening to or reading about the news. Just find it.
Why is this breakaway so important? Emotional detachment combats perpetual ruminating and worrying. It clears a better path for dialing into our focus and creativity, which we need for the next two steps.
What are your priorities? Here is my current list:
1. Staff concerns—payroll, health insurance, retirement plans, etc. What are the particular needs of each staff member, and what is my personal financial situation?
2. Overhead costs for the business—fixed versus not fixed
3. Loans—discussions with the bank to assess their policy for potential payment deferral or interest-only payments on loans
4. Payroll protection—I applied for (and received) the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) loan.
5. Practice protocols—implementing procedures, guidelines, protocols, etc., for emergency patients and making sure all staff members are on the same page
6. Communication—reassuring and communicating with patients regarding our ability to take care of their dental needs, both now and in the future
7. Return-to-normal plans—implementing plans and protocols to return to business as usual with regard to practice management, clinical issues, staff, patients, etc.
8. Reliable resources—using reliable resources for all the above—i.e., cited research from published and reputable colleagues, personal accountant, attorney, and good business sense for my particular situation and practice
Write down your priorities. Yes, I said that. Write them down. Discuss them with your partner, office manager, staff, and anyone else who is part of the equation for your situation.
I’ll submit that as things develop, point nos. 5–8 above will especially begin to take shape and reprioritize themselves. OSHA, CDC, society, patient and dentist expectations, and standards will morph into finer detail, which will allow for better execution. Right now, suffice it to say that everything is a mess. I am more or less standing on the sidelines, taking notes, doing my own research, and watching how things play out.
Execution of each priority point creates a sense of purpose and accomplishment. It eases anxiety and allows the flow of return to normal to be more coordinated with less effort. Difficult discussions and decisions are integral to the execution process. Keep emotion out of it. Don’t be swayed by what someone else says or does. That may sound harsh but it’s reality. Stick to your plan yet be open enough to accommodate changes that manifest through evolving doors. Execute each point one by one with an understanding that there may be crossover. Factors we don’t have control over will dictate that we adapt and overcome (e.g.; supply and demand of PPE materials).
The constant bombardment of information makes all of this seem daunting. But no matter what’s coming down the pike (and there’s plenty yet to come) and regardless of how bad everything may seem, just don’t surrender. Ask yourself on every point, “What am I going to do about it?” Detach. Prioritize. Execute. We’ve got this.
Stay safe. Stay motivated. Stay strong.
Stacey L. Gividen, DDS
Editorial Director,Breakthrough Clinical
1. Carey M. Second week of HPI polling shows dentists’ response to COVID-19. American Dental Association. April 10, 2020. Accessed April 13, 2020. https://www.ada.org/en/publications/ada-news/2020-archive/april/second-week-of-hpi-polling-shows-dentists-response-to-covid-19
Last month: “Coping with COVID-19 in the dental profession”
Editor's note: This article originally appeared in Breakthrough Clinical, a clinical specialties newsletter from Dental Economics and DentistryIQ. Read more articles at this link.