COVID-19 diaries with Onkar Mudhar: DFT vs. Coronavirus

Here is my next COVID-19 diaries entry with Onkar Mudhar, a DFT based in Essex and fellow Dental Training Consultants crew...

Onkar, a Foundation Dentist based in Essex

I'm Onkar, a foundation dentist based in Brentwood, Essex (yes... that is where they film THAT television show, but lets just skim past that). Having recently graduated from King's College London in July 2019, I was thrilled to be starting my FD year. Being in charge of my own treatment plans, seeing multiple patients a day and actually being able to use 'Doctor' to sound a little more fancy were the small pleasures I had been looking forward to now for half a decade!

Fast forward to September 2019, the 'honeymoon' period was over, I was in full swing of foundation training. The pace picked up fast, from 5 patients a day in my second week, to 12 patients a day in my fifth week, I was finally starting to feel confident and looking forward to the daily grind! Weekly study days at Basildon Hospital added to this, as we spent our Fridays either in lectures or having practical sessions on topics such as composite bonding or crown preparations.

By Christmas, we started hearing of a 'flu like virus' in the media which had begun spreading in Wuhan... initially, we all brushed these concerns off! We're a tiny island, miles away from Wuhan, we don't have much to be concerned about... or so we thought!

March 2020 and we were in the crux of the 'Corona Crisis' - not much guidance had been given to dental professionals and most of us were continuing to work as normal, asking patients if they had travelled to any high risk areas in the last few weeks or had any chest symptoms or a fever, before blissfully carrying on with routine treatment such as fillings and root canals. Furthermore, our weekly study days were still going ahead, along with other events held in and around Essex and London - we were progressing with caution and things started feeling a little uneasy...

By mid-March, we had confirmed cases all over the country including Essex and frank discussions were being had at the practice I work in. For reference, it's a large corporate consisting of 12 surgeries, encompassing orthodontics, implants, facial aesthetics and routine NHS and private dentistry.  The patient base is huge and the number of staff employed is exceptional - something had to be done to prevent the potential spread and with little to no government guidance the practice decided to take things into their own hands!

Scrolling through social media at this point emphasised how frustrated dentists in a general practice setting felt... movements on Instagram such as #DownDrills encouraged the halting of all AGPs (aerosol generating procedures) to prevent accidental transmission. As a foundation dentist, my colleagues and I felt somewhat in limbo. Having received little guidance from any official bodies, I was still in practice seeing emergencies mainly for extractions or to write any prescriptions. In addition, we received an email informing us DCT recruitment had been 'postponed' and all our study days for the foreseeable future had been cancelled. Adding to this uncertainty, was the constant hearsay that all foundation dentists were to be redeployed to a hospital setting. Emails were sent back and forth, transferable skills forms indicating what we'd be comfortable doing were filled out, but nothing was ever actioned and I am yet to hear back...

To say I felt deflated would be an understatement... I was thoroughly enjoying my foundation training and by March, was often seeing 20+ patients a day carrying out a variety of treatment and to add to my woes, I still needed to fit crowns on three of my patients (I hope those temporaries are still holding up!). 

By the time official lock down came into play, we were informed by our TPD (training programme director) that we weren't to come into practice anymore and instead, help telephone triage from home. For the first 2 weeks of lock down I was helping doing this, but ran into difficulties with electronic prescribing, not to mention the fact patients didn't understand why we couldn't see them in practice...

After the creation of multiple group chats, it was then decided we would need to operate on a skeleton system, which involved a dentist coming into work every day, telephone triaging on site which would effectively combat the issue of prescribing, accessing notes etc. Being a 10 minute drive from my home, I was more than happy to volunteer and have been attending the practice 1-2 x a week alongside a senior dentist, telephone triaging ensuring all patients queries are taken care of. 

It's now been more than a month in lock down and I am still waiting to hear back about redeployment. Along with telephone triaging and listening to countless webinars, I have been enjoying the family time and have been carrying out my daily exercise so I don't feel guilty when indulging in a few too many desserts!

A highlight of this time has been the donations my fellow Dental Training Consultants and I have raised... between the team we have donated 10,000 products including oral care packages, soaps, creams and lip balms to hospital frontliners and homeless centres in London and Essex. This has truly been an amazing experience and we hope to continue to donate once their crisis is over.

Just some of the donations Onkar and the team have collected for NHS workers and homeless hotels

To say the last few weeks have been a whirlwind would be an understatement. COVID-19 has been relentless, whether it be the way it has rampaged through families or the effect it is having on our front line staff who work tirelessly through gruelling shifts to ensure we are taken care of... on behalf of all of us, I can only say thank you. And to anyone who has lost a loved one to this dreadful disease, my deepest apologies. 

My foundation training year has been filled the the term 'reflect'. Reflect on your molar endo, reflect on that crown prep that didn't go too well, reflect on that extraction...

Reflecting on COVID-19 I think it's clear that humans as a species are constantly in a rush. We always have something to do, somewhere to be or a deadline to meet. This is the first time the majority of us are sat at home, idle, waiting for something to do and initially it felt odd but now, it seems we're getting through it. 

Lastly, one thing that we can ALL take from COVID-19 is the theory of human nature. Kindness, compassion, charity and unity are words that spring to mind when I think about the actions I've seen form people all over the country. Whether it be clapping for carers at 8pm every Thursday, dropping food outside an elderly relatives house or simply running that 5k on Instagram and donating to charity of your choice... it's clear to see in times of darkness, kindness shall always prevail. 

Do you want to write a COVID-19 diary? Please get in touch! Whether you're a dental student, foundation dentist, dental core trainee, associate, dental nurse, therapist I WANT TO HEAR FROM YOU!

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