I’m finding a few positives about working in my accredited private surgery facility, but it was hard to envision when the order to cease elective surgeries first hit us here in the Seattle area. After 9 long weeks, we were able to re-open, and 2 months in we are still adapting to a completely different way of doing things. On the clinic side of the practice, social distancing guidelines and commonsense precautions dictate a limit on the number of patients in the facility at any one time. And since each room is thoroughly sanitized after each patient, we try not to use more than one room per patient visit.
An example is the photo room, where we typically would take the patient for post-op photos. We have a specific blue wall for the background, and fortunately when we had the clinic refurbished a couple of
years ago I had one wall in each room painted with the same blue color. The idea was to have another option if the photo room was occupied. Now we can do many of the before & afters in the exam room, without having to do a deep clean on two rooms for one patient.
Another feature of my clinic is a large waiting room. While we do not have patients wait there now (straight to the exam room after temperature check), it will be nice to be able to space patients out as we ramp up in the future. It also makes an appropriate place for staff meetings, with everyone 6 feet apart but in the same room. You can only do so much for teamwork on a Zoom meeting.
Our biggest advantage? Only healthy patients
Ultimately, the biggest advantage to our patients is that we are not a facility that treats sick patients, so risk of exposure is extremely low. Although I strongly encourage everyone to call their doctor and not be afraid to go in for medical care if necessary, it is comforting to know that for elective plastic surgery you will not be in the same facility as symptomatic patients.
In retrospect, we may have been fortunate in this area to have had the first big wave of Covid cases, so the shutdown gave us a bit of a head start on coping strategies. In other parts of the country they are just now going through what we did back in March and April. That may be why there seems to be more willingness for people to wear masks and observe social distancing here. But seriously, is it really that much of an imposition to wear a mask? As a surgeon, I’ve done it every day at my job for my entire career. You can do it for a few months, and help keep our practice (and every other business for that matter) in the pink.