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How the Pandemic has Changed the Lives and Attitudes of Dental Nurses

We can all agree that things will never be the same again. Even if the pandemic ends in Spring 2022 as many have predicted, some behaviours and policies may be here to stay. From
mask-wearing to home-working, the general public have been quite clear on what they’d like to maintain. Dental nurses are also seeing the pandemic as an opportunity to change their way of working. We look at how the last 18 months have impacted dental staff and what to expect in the future.

Pressure

There has undoubtedly been a lot of pressure on nurses to work overtime in order to plough through enormous waiting lists. Closures during the pandemic have only created a backlog of patients needing treatment. It has been reported that some patients have been told they need to wait as long as 3 years for an appointment. Although this seems extreme, the pressure is on for surgeries as they strive to meet the needs of their patients after a turbulent year.
This pressure has affected nurses in different ways, whether it is feeling unsupported or fearful of exposing their own family to the virus, some are leaving the profession for good. For others, they are using their experiences as an opportunity to try new careers. What we can say for sure is that things will never be the same again, the ‘new normal’ is here to stay.

Photo by Geo Days on Unsplash

Multi-Tasking

Nurses are used to having a wide range of skills at their disposal. Dental teams cannot function without nurses to help scan teeth, fit braces, support surgeries, treat ailments and advise patients on the core fundamentals of dental health. The pandemic has shown that nurses have been flexible, easily adapting to the new restrictions on PPE and infection control.
Nurses are used to the pressure and regularly multi-task to fulfil the multiple roles required of them. The pandemic, however, has made things more intense and nurses have found themselves not only doing extra tasks to maintain a sterile environment in between appointments, but reassuring anxious patients, scheduling appointments as per COVID-secure guidance and working hard to support the increase in patient numbers. Private practices will see a notable increase as patients make the move from NHS practice to private due to large waiting lists.

Photo by Ani Kolleshi on Unsplash

Moving online

Nurses are taking the opportunity to make the most of online CPD. With many courses moving online, this gives nurses greater flexibility to learn in their own time at their own pace. Dental nurses are required to complete 50 hours of enhanced CPD every 5 years. The increased workload and stress of COVID-19 has made CPD an afterthought, but thankfully this added online flexibility will make things easier for staff hoping to keep up.
COVID-19 has significantly decreased access to dental services and widened the gaps in health inequality. Nurses will have a huge task ahead in order to tackle this. With no real end in sight, staff will be working hard to reach out, support, treat and educate those most in need.

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