Dezarae Aldridge-Earl, RDH
Did March 2020 and COVID-19 turn your world upside down? Likely, your answer is yes, especially if you are an Independent Dental Hygienist and small business owner here in Canada. Your business is closed, you're not seeing your clients and you still have clinic rent, hydro, heat, business loans and so much more to cover every month you are closed. With so much uncertainty and fear in the air, it's very easy to fall into a negative downward spiral.
As an Independent Dental Hygienist and owner of a stand alone dental hygiene clinic in Huntsville, ON, named, "Dental Hygiene with Dezarae", I have my own worries for the future of my practice and personal finances. I know whatever the personal costs, I will make my business work, but likely I will be forced to add upwards of thirty thousand dollars of debt to stay afloat.
Throughout my 18 years spent in dentistry, I can say this truly is such an extraordinary event we are all going through. Never in my career have we ever NOT had the answers like we do today. There is no person on the other end of a phone call, that can answer our questions regarding COVID-19. The answer is simply, we need time. How much time? We do not know.
Personally, I believe my business experiences that occurred in the spring of 2019, have somewhat prepared me for the current season that we now find ourselves in. Last spring on April 22, 2019 my entire dental clinic flooded. My entire town was in a state of emergency and for 8 days, I waited for the flood waters to recede from my clinic, to begin the restoration and get back to seeing clients. There is no question that COVID-19 will keep our businesses CLOSED for much longer than the 5 weeks I was closed last year, due to flooding.
What last year's flood taught me was that there will most certainly be hard seasons to get through. Hard seasons both personally and professionally. We are ALL in this hard season together right now. Currently the season is "winter", and eventually "spring" will come and this too will end. If we can all find a way to get through this "winter" season with a growth mindset our "spring" will bring more joy, abundance and beauty. I believe we have been given this gift of time to reflect on our core values and priorities in life. This will be different for each of us. For some it might be simply more rest for your body, for others, more time with your loved ones, or improving your personal health and wellness. For me, it's all the above. As a small business owner, I've neglected my own personal health for the past three years. While I've spent extreme attention to all the details of my business, for three years, I've neglected myself. For the past month, I've been able to give myself the time to eat three meals a day, have the time to exercise and spend more time with my kids. I know that might sound silly to some, but all the solo DH business owners out there know exactly what I'm talking about. Understand that for every hour spent clinically, there is at least another hour spent to complete chart notes, sterilization, check clients out, book appointments, check phone messages, marketing, bookkeeping, order supplies, education and the list goes on and on.
I worry for the future of our profession and the future of fellow dental hygiene business owners throughout Canada. Most certainly the future of our profession will look different with changes to PPE and how some of our clients may question their safety of receiving care from us due to aerosol risks.
I'm sure there will be some hygienists that will decide now is the time for personal change. Some will retire, and some will not return. Some dental hygiene clinics financially will not be able to continue in the future. With no revenues for months and thousands being owed in back rent and thousands more needed to make necessary infection control changes within our clinic walls, it will be a struggle for some. I hope that there will be changes made to allow dental hygienists to "qualify" for the much needed small business loans recently made available by the government. Independent Hygienists will need the help moving forward.
However, before any of these types of decisions are made, I challenge you. I challenge you to look further now. Standing before each of us are opportunities. It is up to us to see these opportunities. If we let fear override our thoughts, you will never see your full potential and you will be consumed with negativity. Instead, you will be stuck in scarcity and survival mode. We must open our hearts and stay within a positive mindset to be open to new opportunities. Allow yourself to hear what your heart might be calling. And if you're listening, you may just change the world. I was once told that "when one door closes, another door opens." This just may be the time, another door is about to open for you with new opportunities ahead. Use meditation, gratitude, exercise and journaling to stay positive every day.
Perhaps now, may be the perfect time to plan your future to practice DH independently. Work on writing a business plan to start your own business in the future, so YOU can be in control of your time and schedule. Create more time for your loved ones and family.
Or maybe your body is getting tired and it's time to pivot and learn new skills. Dental Hygienists make great health coaches and myofunctional therapists. How about learning orofacial myofunctional therapy and taking a course, so you can offer therapy via ZOOM or Skype through videohealth. We can also increase our community presence by offering more value to our communities and clients by creating online learning through Facebook Lives or Groups, ZOOM meetings, and challenges. Focusing on topics such as "how to" maintain proper oral health, through nutrition, pH levels of foods and drinks we consume, pregnancy, post cancer treatment care, the importance of airway health, and all other oral systemic health topics.
We may not be able to clean teeth right now, but we CAN still help create the strong foundations for successful and improved overall health and wellness. We can accomplish this by encouraging and teaching kids how to stop sucking their thumb or what a daily healthy diet may look like.
I believe the profession of Dental Hygiene can be brighter than ever, as we navigate our way through these dark waters. Together we can RISE UP and be a voice for the future of a healthier nation. The opportunity is now to create tremendous value in our communities and build strong, loyal, relationships with clients. The type of relationships that will grow your business through this storm. Then later on, when we finally get to "summer" and "fall" we will reap the rewards from our harvest. Grow through the seasons and be stronger for it.
I'm grateful for this stillness of time and the opportunity to create a new revised vision for my business and the successes I plan for the future ahead. I've had the opportunity to connect with other Independent Dental Hygiene practice owners throughout the past month. I've felt more connected as a community, as we navigate our way through all of this together.
I hope you will join me in your own opportunity for growth and development in these challenging and uncertain times and look towards the brighter days ahead.
Together we are #RDHSTRONG.
Love & Gratitude
Dezarae Aldridge-Earl, RDH
Dezarae Aldridge-Earl, RDH
CEO of Dental Hygiene with Dezarae
Follow on Instagram @dezaraerdh