Reassigned During Pandemic, Dental Assistant Back in the Office
Christina Reed has been a Certified Dental Assistant at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia for 23 years – long enough to think of her colleagues as “family.”
They eat lunch together and sometimes go out for dinner or drinks after work. They do a line dance to celebrate each other’s birthdays and make everyone, including the docs, dance down the middle. “I love my work family. We have a great team,” Reed says.
But that team was abruptly disbanded in March when the dental offices were temporarily closed, except for emergencies, due to COVID-19. Reed, who worked in the endodontics office, spent the next few months in another world – though in the same hospital where she’s spent her career.
Screener and Greeter
She was reassigned to Protective Services and worked as a screener and greeter in the hospital’s main lobby.
“I got to see parts of the hospital I’d never seen,” Reed says. The only part of the hospital she had known was the corridor to the cafeteria from the dental office, which is on the second floor of the Paley building. “This is an amazing hospital,” she says.
Throughout the crisis, instead of soothing the apprehensions of people facing root canal work, Reed soothed the worries of the families of COVID patients who were unable to visit their loved ones.
Delivering Patients and Packages
Instead of doing dental x-rays, she took patients in wheelchairs to get x-rays, or MRIs or CT scans, and accompanied patients who couldn’t speak English to where they needed to be.
Instead of ordering dental supplies, she shuttled packages dropped off by families to inpatient units. “They’d bring phone chargers, clothes, food, and I’d take it to the nurses’ station. The nurses were so appreciative that I brought things up and they didn’t have to come down.”
Reed spent much of her time in the lobby, though, screening patients and visitors, taking temperatures and inquiring about their travel, symptoms and possible exposure to COVID.
During that time, George Floyd was killed and the world convulsed about racial injustice in policing. Reed participated in the “Healthcare Action Against Racism” demonstration on June 5, when hospital employees across the city gathered and kneeled to protest racial injustice.
It was meaningful to Reed in many ways, including the fact that “I stood next to Dixie James,” she says, speaking glowingly about Einstein’s President and Chief Operating Officer.
Family Health Concerns
During that time, too, Reed’s biological family was directly impacted by the pandemic: her 30-year-old daughter came down with COVID-19. Reed helped take care of her two granddaughters while her daughter recovered at home. Reed is the “proud mother” of three, including a son who’s in his first year of dental school, and has two grandsons.
She also fretted about the vulnerability of her 80-year-old father at home. “My dad lives with me and he has prostate cancer. I was worried about him,” she says. She was careful to remove her scrubs, spray her shoes with disinfectant and take other measures to avoid spreading the virus to him.
Now, Reed’s daughter is well. Her father is fine. And as of mid-June, she’s back with her work family at the dental office, which has reopened with new safety precautions in place.
New Barriers, Better Ventilation
According to Frederic Barnett, DMD, Chair of Dental Medicine at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia, plexiglass barriers have been installed between dental chairs and the ventilation system has been totally reconfigured to create a different airflow that reduces the spread of airborne bacterial and viral particles.
“I truly believe that we now have one of the safest environments anywhere to treat the dental needs of our patients,” he says.
Reed is happy to be back. But she formed an intense connection with other Protective Services employees who worked with her in the front lobby through the COVID crisis. “We still keep in contact,” Reed says. “We’re going to plan a barbecue together.”
Now, Christina Reed has another branch of her Einstein family.