By Dr. Leah Schulz, CDA Wellness Committee Chair
Social relationships are fundamental to human connectedness. Many of us choose to have life partners, children, participate in neighborhood gatherings and other community-based groups in order to feel connected. We crave an attachment to others.
It’s typically pretty easy to satisfy that craving as a dentist. We picked a career where we intentionally chose to work within two feet of other people’s faces for 90% of our day. We touched knees with our assistants and shook hands with our patients. We empathetically listened to the needs, wants and goals of our teams and patients alike and valued when our friends and colleagues did the same for us. We were busy using our skills to help others, interacting with loads of people in various ways throughout the day, and soaking up every blessed minute of it.
And then it all changed.
Many of us are now living in a sense of emptiness, even in what others may consider “full houses.” Our attachments to others while being at home, whether that is alone, with a partner or roommate, or with kids, is not the same as it was in the office. Our roles drastically changed in many ways. Our family, social and interpersonal dynamics are different, in some cases unrecognizable, to what they were just a few weeks ago. And yet, our need for meaningful interpersonal interactions remains the same as it has always been.
Some readers may be thinking, “I’m fine right now. Heck, I’m even enjoying this change of pace!” Be that as it may, please know that not all your colleagues are feeling this way. I’ve had the honor of speaking with many CDA member dentists across the state over the past few weeks and a resounding message has been: “I miss interacting with people outside my home. I am lonely.” Some of our colleagues are struggling right now with additional feelings of stress, anxiety, fear, sadness and even a loss of identity.
We can help our colleagues by, “making the call.”
This is our chance to step up in a time of crisis and support one another. We’re asking each and every CDA member to “Make the Call” to another dentist by reaching out to talk. This does not have to be a 30-minute phone call or an elaborately executed video chat. Just picking up the phone and saying, “I was thinking about you today and wondering how you’re doing” will be enough for the person on the other end of the line.
One dentist-to-dentist conversation is all that we’re asking. That human virtual touch can be so powerful that it can help reduce your colleague’s sense of social isolation, and in some cases may help improve other feelings of anxiety, fear and sadness. Connecting with a colleague in this way can also help you feel valuable and restore that happy feeling you get when you help another human.
If you knew that a patient was struggling and could be helped with a phone call, you’d call them. Please provide your colleagues with that same compassion. Make the call.
If you’re interested in using a video platform to “Make the Call,” here are a few ideas:
Google Hangouts https://hangouts.google.com/
Google Duo https://duo.google.com/
Facetime on iPhone and Mac