Nearly everyone working in a dental practice will get in close contact with patients. Chances are, some of those patients will come in with a virus or other condition that can get you sick. And while dentists, dental hygienists, and dental assistants wear gloves to be sanitary, protecting patients from their germs and vice versa, gloves are not a complete solution. Moreover, chairside doctors and team members are in direct cough and sneeze distance from patients. If a patient is sick, gloves won’t keep you from coughs and sneezes. Additionally, front office team members don’t even wear gloves when they are handling paperwork or shaking hands with patients.
If a patient is sick it’s very easy for them to get a team member sick, too. And when that happens, the practice becomes short-staffed and team members get overworked. This can be a drain on both production and morale. That’s why many practices invest in protecting team members and patients from getting each other sick. Here are a few ways to protect the doctors, team members, and even patients from getting each other sick.
Train your team members.
Make sure your team members know some warning signs that a patient is sick. Are they coughing, sneezing, sniffling, pale, or sweaty? Does their nose look red from blowing their nose? Take a few minutes to help them spot sick patients.
Also, train your team members to have conversations with patients who you believe to be sick. Ask them to do so discretely but to let patients know illness can spread so it’s important to protect team members and other patients.
Keep a thermometer on hand.
Many times, patients either won’t know they’re sick or will just feel a little under the weather. They might come in with a sniffling nose and think it’s no big deal. They might be coughing or sneezing but attribute it to seasonal allergies. But it could be anything. It could even be the beginning of the flu. If that’s the case, they’ll likely have a high temperature. Have a thermometer on hand to take their temperature and assess whether they are sick.
Reschedule patients who are sick.
If the patient turns out to be sick, gracefully let them know they will need to reschedule. Make this a policy of the practice so you can have easier conversations. The training you give your team about having these conversations will be very important. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Send them home and book another appointment.
Tell them to call in next time instead of coming to the office.
Before you send them off, tell them that it is better for them to call next time instead of coming in—for both you and them. And tell them to be safe than sorry. If they aren’t feeling great, ask them to call in and reschedule.
If they need urgent treatment, you can certainly make exceptions but try to keep the ill patient separate from other patients and in contact with as few team members as possible. Get them out of the waiting room as quickly as possible.
If you must treat them take safety precautions.
Sometimes a patient requires prompt treatment. They might be in an emergency. In this case, it’s not wise to just tell them to reschedule. And sometimes a patient assists they are feeling fine, even if you suspect they are ill. In these cases, it’s often best to not reschedule. But take safety precautions like the ones mentioned above. Wear masks at all times to protect yourself from coughs or sneezes. If they sig in the waiting room, have your team monitor what they touch. Disinfect anything they toughed right away, including magazines, door handles, pens, countertops, and anything else.
How do you keep patients from getting you sick?
With so many patients coming into your practice, it’s easy for one to get team members sick, especially during colder months and when seasons change. If you are not prepared to handle sick patients coming in, your entire team is at risk of getting sick. Have you tried any of these methods to keep patients from getting you sick? What else have you done?
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