Facing the Drill at the Dentist Office

Facing the Drill at the Dentist Office

Like many people, I’m not all that fond of going to the dentist office to get a cavity filled.  I hate getting the shots, having my mouth all numb, and listening to the sound of the drill.  I do feel confident that my dentist has my safety in mind, but I’ve never seen it put to the test. 

Yesterday, however, I had an experience that caused me to reconsider my thoughts about drills and safety.  Over the loudspeaker came a message: “Code Grey in Middletown Medical, Behavioral Health and Dental.”

Different health centers and hospitals have different meanings for different codes.  At CHC Code Grey is used to indicate a hazardous chemical spill.  If the hazardous chemicals catch fire, it becomes a Code Red.  The Code Grey alert was followed almost immediately by a Code Red.  Not good.  The announcements indicated that some hazardous chemicals had spilled in front of our buildings and had caught fire.  Our staff needed to quickly evacuate the buildings using alternative exits.

I hit Ctrl-Alt-Delete to lock my computer screen and quickly headed down the backstairs.  Other staff joined the orderly procession and soon we were all standing outside in the bright sun, with no signs of flames or smoke from where we were standing.

Joining us were the dental staff and one patient with cotton gauze still in his mouth.  His dentist had just numbed him up and was getting ready to drill.

You know, I had never thought of what a medical provider would have to do during an emergency like this.  What do you do if you have a patient sitting in the dentist chair, hooked up to an EKG, or simply undressed during a physical?  Our staff safely accompanied all the patients outside in a laudably short time.  Fortunately, it was only a drill and within minutes everything was back to normal.

Last week, there was a different drill – a gunman at the Clinton Health Center.  It was a great learning opportunity for everyone involved.  This morning, the news wires started lighting up with stories about a possible gunman at Virginia Tech, a campus that saw a horrible shooting incident back in 2007.  Just as I hope we never have to face the situation of a hazardous spill catching fire at one of our facilities, I hope we never have a problem with a gunman. 

While drills like we’ve had this week and last are inconvenient to patients and staff alike, they are also required and extremely important.  The tornado that hit Joplin, MO this year was far worse than inconvenient.  It caused major damage to St. John’s Regional Medical Center.  Yet the staff there knew what to do as they evacuated the building.  I am glad for our staff that takes preparedness and such drills seriously.

Providing world class health care isn’t just about the medical treatment our patients receive, it is about the whole experience, including preparedness for anything that might happen.  Thanks to our caring staff and our understanding patients.

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