If the past year has taught us anything, it’s that our healthcare workers are an indispensable asset in our community, going above and beyond in their care for their valued patients. While many cities are starting to gradually reopen, many healthcare facilities have already been seeing patients throughout the pandemic, oftentimes putting themselves at risk for the greater good of their neighbors.

However, if your facility has been closed — whether you’re a dermatologist, a dentist,

or an optometrist — and you’re ready to finally start welcoming patients back into your clinic, it’s essential that you take measures to help ensure the safety and wellbeing of your staff and patients. As the foundation of your practice, and oftentimes the first line of contact with your patients, it’s critical to be proactive about safeguarding them.

Fortunately, there are a few measures you can easily implement at your office to help minimize the risk of spreading COVID-19 among your staff and patients. By following these important guidelines, you can help make sure your practice will be flourishing in the coming months, without needlessly worrying about inadvertently exposing an employee or patient to coronavirus.

Avoid Surface Contamination

Research has indicated that coronavirus can live on surfaces from anywhere between four hours to four days. This makes even the most basic objects in your office, such as ink pens and doorknobs, vectors for the disease. By simply touching these items, then touching your mucous membranes (like your eyes, nose, and mouth), you could accidentally infect yourself with the COVID-19 virus.

To avoid transmitting the virus through contact contamination, it’s best to practice good hygiene standards at your clinic. Always wipe down surfaces after they’ve been touched, using a cleanser that has been shown to kill the virus. In addition, it is prudent to be sure to wash your hands after coming in contact with any of these items, as it can help mitigate the spread of the virus within your clinic. While gloves can help, it’s important to remember to not touch your face while wearing them.

Enforce Social Distancing

While it can be hard to keep a safe distance between yourself and your patients while performing an exam on them, there are still ways you can help avoid the spread of COVID-19 in your office. For instance, PPE (personal protective equipment) like masks and gloves can help reduce the risk of infection with coronavirus. You can also designate a specific entrance for yourself and your staff, away from the entrance which your patients will use. Placing a plastic barrier between your receptionists’ desk and your patients can also help them safe.

Another important consideration that often tends to get overlooked is the use of the communal break area. Make sure you have all of the necessary cleaning supplies available to permit your staff to sanitize surfaces before they take their meals or breaks. You may also want to provide single-use items to them, like disposable cutlery or plates. By staggering breaks and mealtimes, you can also help offset the risk of cross-contamination during meals, keeping yourself and employees safe during your reopening.

Make Your Office Hostile to COVID-19

Finally, if your goal is to keep yourself and your staff safe, then you want to make sure your office is not a welcoming environment for the virus. One way you can help prevent the spread of COVID-19 at your clinic is to boost air circulation, which can disperse the virus particulates in the air. If possible, fresh air can not only let in a pleasant breeze, but it can also help rid your office of any remaining virus lingering in the air. Make sure your clinic’s HVAC system is also working at peak efficiency to help minimize its spread.

You may also want to rearrange your office’s furniture to help encourage social distancing. Move workstations a minimum of six feet apart to allow your staff to interact with patients at a comfortable and safe distance. The same goes for your waiting area; make sure you keep all chairs apart so patients do not sit too closely near one another. If your waiting room chairs are made of soft, porous materials like cloth or other fabrics, consider using plastic slipcovers, which will make cleaning them much easier.

It’s also vital to perform routine testing for coronavirus. Always check your staff and your patients’ temperatures when they arrive, and document it for reference. If your employees or patients are showing any sign of infection, do not permit them to remain in your office. Regular testing for COVID-19 can also let you know if you or any of your staff may be sick, and

keeping a COVID test kit handy can allow you to test frequently and with ease. It would be wise to keep several on hand, just in case you suspect you or your employees may have been exposed to coronavirus.

As a healthcare provider, it’s understandable to be concerned about the spread of coronavirus at your clinic. While you may have kept your office closed during the peak period of the quarantine, your patients need you, and you need your clinic to be open so you can start earning revenue again. By following these protocols, and by enforcing the guidelines set forth by your local governing agents, you can help ensure everyone at your clinic — from yourself to your patients and your staff — can experience the reopening of your facility with the confidence that you doing everything in your power to keep them safe from the virus.