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The pandemic is not over, but we still must treat patients with compassion

Published:September 14, 2022DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.oooo.2022.09.002
      Although the COVID-19 pandemic eventually will come to an end, SARS-CoV-2 is likely to remain with us as an endemic cause of disease.

      American Medical Association. How we will know when COVID-19 has become endemic. Available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/how-we-will-know-when-covid-19-has-become-endemic. Accessed April 1, 2022.

      Those entering the hospital environment, nursing homes, and other facilities that provide human care still are mandated to wear masks to reduce the risk of spread and to promote safety.

      Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare personnel during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html. Accessed February 2, 2022.

      There is another disease that recently erupted around the globe called monkeypox, which poses a new risk for health care professionals. We as practitioners are continually in contact with patients who may be infected with these and other diseases. As oral surgeons, we understand the precautions that can be taken to protect ourselves, our patients, our staff, and our families. For decades, oral surgeons have donned personal protective equipment in some form to protect against transmissible diseases and have employed those practices throughout the COVID pandemic. They will continue to provide protection against COVID, monkeypox, and future diseases that may emerge.
      Although each and every one of us has certain biases with these diseases—conscious or unconscious—it is important that we treat patients with respect and dignity even if they are “different” from what we are used to.

      St. George's University. The importance of diversity in health care: medical professionals weigh in. Available at: https://www.sgu.edu/blog/medical/pros-discuss-the-importance-of-diversity-in-health-care/. Accessed August 19, 2021.

      It is important that we render accurate diagnoses and then perform the proper treatment on all of our patients. When we treat all with equity and equality, we recognize there are different circumstances that come into play, and all will be provided appropriate, equitable care.

      St. Catherine University. Health equity vs. health equality: what's the difference? Available at: https://www.stkate.edu/academics/healthcare-degrees/health-equity-vs-health-equality. Accessed April 25, 2022.

      I have been thinking about a 2019 editorial by Dr. Kevin Rieck,
      • Rieck KL.
      The needs of the patient come first—but at what cost?.
      a past president of the American College of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons who trained at the Mayo Clinic. Dr. Rieck highlighted the mantra of the Mayo Clinic as an ideal to have in mind when treating all our patients, “the needs of the patient comes first.” Dr. Rieck also authored an editorial in 2020 highlighting another critical issue for health care professionals: burnout. Recently, teacher burnout has come to the forefront,

      National Education Association. Getting serious about teacher burnout. Available at: https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/getting-serious-about-teacher-burnout. Accessed November 12, 2021.

      but is this not also an issue for our profession of physicians and dentists?

      American Medical Association. What doctors wish patients knew about physician burnout. Available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-physician-burnout. Accessed November 5, 2021.

      We should ask ourselves whether we are taking care of ourselves to render the best care we can give our patients.

      American Dental Association. Association tackles mental health with sense of urgency. Available at: https://www.ada.org/publications/ada-news/2022/may/association-tackles-mental-health-with-sense-of-urgency. Accessed May 9, 2022.

      These 2 ideas, putting the needs of the patient first and caring for our own well-being, are somewhat in tension. In addition to caring for our physical and psychological well-being, another factor for consideration is our financial compensation. We know that reimbursement rates are different throughout the country.

      The Commonwealth Fund. Medicaid reimbursement rates are a racial justice issue. Available at: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2022/medicaid-reimbursement-rates-are-racial-justice-issue. Accessed June 16, 2022.

      A question with which we all must struggle is whether we should move to an area where the wear and tear of our bodies is less and finances are greater, where we are most comfortable, or do we just adapt so that the needs of the patient come first and foremost. Throughout my career, I have worked mostly with the Medicare patients of Pennsylvania. I have continually rendered care to the best of my ability, never thinking about reimbursement. Instead, I find ways to care for myself, including claiming time for resting and relaxing, so I can render the best care. Is this wrong in providing patient care? I hope not.

      Disclosure

      None.

      References

      1. American Medical Association. How we will know when COVID-19 has become endemic. Available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/delivering-care/public-health/how-we-will-know-when-covid-19-has-become-endemic. Accessed April 1, 2022.

      2. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Interim infection prevention and control recommendations for healthcare personnel during the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic. Available at: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/infection-control-recommendations.html. Accessed February 2, 2022.

      3. St. George's University. The importance of diversity in health care: medical professionals weigh in. Available at: https://www.sgu.edu/blog/medical/pros-discuss-the-importance-of-diversity-in-health-care/. Accessed August 19, 2021.

      4. St. Catherine University. Health equity vs. health equality: what's the difference? Available at: https://www.stkate.edu/academics/healthcare-degrees/health-equity-vs-health-equality. Accessed April 25, 2022.

        • Rieck KL.
        The needs of the patient come first—but at what cost?.
        Oral Surg Oral Med Oral Pathol Oral Radiol. 2019; 128: 565-566
      5. National Education Association. Getting serious about teacher burnout. Available at: https://www.nea.org/advocating-for-change/new-from-nea/getting-serious-about-teacher-burnout. Accessed November 12, 2021.

      6. American Medical Association. What doctors wish patients knew about physician burnout. Available at: https://www.ama-assn.org/practice-management/physician-health/what-doctors-wish-patients-knew-about-physician-burnout. Accessed November 5, 2021.

      7. American Dental Association. Association tackles mental health with sense of urgency. Available at: https://www.ada.org/publications/ada-news/2022/may/association-tackles-mental-health-with-sense-of-urgency. Accessed May 9, 2022.

      8. The Commonwealth Fund. Medicaid reimbursement rates are a racial justice issue. Available at: https://www.commonwealthfund.org/blog/2022/medicaid-reimbursement-rates-are-racial-justice-issue. Accessed June 16, 2022.