Uncertainties around COVID-19 from the perspectives of oral health care workers during the first wave of SARS-CoV-2 infections in British Columbia, Canada
BACKGROUND: The first wave of COVID-19 infections caused disturbances in all aspects of personal and professional lives. The aim of this study was to explore the ways in which that first wave of novel coronavirus infections resulted in uncertainties, as experienced by members of the oral health care workforce in British Columbia, Canada. METHODS: This qualitative inquiry purposefully recruited frontline oral health care workers, including dentists, dental hygienists, certified dental assistants, and administrative staff, via remote semi-structured interviews between April 20 and May 4, 2020. Coding, categories, and themes were inductively assigned. RESULTS: A total of 45 interviews, lasting between 39 and 74 minutes each, were conducted involving 18 dentists (6 females), 12 dental hygienists (11 females), 6 certified dental assistants (all females), and 9 administrators/front-desk staff (7 females). Fifty-one hours of audio recordings and more than 650 single-spaced pages of transcripts were produced. Five main themes emerged pertaining to uncertainties surrounding COVID-19, patient care, personal lives and infectiousness, concern for the future, and variations among different pandemics. Certitudes were less evident, but surfaced mostly when considering a potential new normal resulting from the pandemic. CONCLUSION: Participants indicated that the uncertainties they felt were dependent upon what is known, and unknown, about the pandemic and the provision of oral health care during the first wave of infections. Future studies are needed to include the viewpoints of oral health care workers from other provinces, as well the perceptions of patients who received oral health care during the height of the first wave of the pandemic.