Frontline experiences and perceptions of Urgent Dental Care centre staff in England during the COVID-19 pandemic: a qualitative study
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Introduction Following the World Health Organisation declaration of COVID-19 as a global pandemic, routine dental care in the UK ceased, and Urgent Dental Care centres (UDCs) were established to offer remote and face-to-face urgent dental treatment for those in need.Aim To explore perceptions and psychosocial experiences of frontline staff providing care at UDCs in England during COVID-19.Method A qualitative research study using a phenomenological approach. Semi-structured interviews were conducted remotely. Using line-by-line coding, data were analysed using a hybrid approach that incorporated both a deductive, theoretical process and an inductive, data-driven process.Results Participants included 29 dentists and nine dental nurses from UDCs across England. Twelve themes were identified and grouped into positive and negative experiences. Positive experiences were: role fulfilment and having a sense of purpose; team unity and collective coping strategies; and strategic teamwork and preparedness for effective organisation of care. Negative experiences included: feeling undervalued and frustrated due to fragmented guidance and communication; sense of unfairness generated by relational challenges; patient demand outstripping UDC capacity; complex decision-making; uncertainty over safety; suffocating PPE hindering effective communication; ineffective communication channels across healthcare sectors; lack of commitment to remote video consultations; and variable referral quality.Conclusions Participants reported experiencing a number of emotional challenges that appeared to be exacerbated by an unsupportive environment, often due to lack of leadership. However, positive experiences and coping strategies were also identified. Collective and sustained efforts at system level to improve the resilience and mental wellbeing of the current and future dental workforce and integration of dentistry into wider healthcare infrastructures are needed.
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