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Returning To Work After COVID - Questions & Concerns From A Therapist's Perspective

By Mala McAlpin

It’s been a rough few months. As a Sydney-based Beauty Therapist and a student Dermal Clinician, I have desperately missed practicing my skills, offering my beloved facial routines to clients, and helping to solve the riddles of my clients’ skin mysteries with product diagnosis and coming up with treatment plans. Thankfully, running my own business as a freelance industry copywriter, contributing my regular articles for Beaute Industrie, and providing marketing and content for ABIC has kept me very busy. I certainly feel for other therapists right now, who don’t have the same options.

One of the main problems most of us are dealing with is a lack of motivation. As a therapist, there is somewhat of an expectation to use this time to upskill, to do online training, to connect with our business owners and managers more, to help them as they try to keep their business afloat. But sadly, the weight of the pandemic has been such a heavy burden that (I think I speak for a lot of therapists here) this is much easier said than done. We miss the client connection, and thereby miss a part of ourselves. We are bored but struggle to do anything. We want to connect but have had enough of zoom sessions.

Some business owners have been wonderfully accommodating in allowing their team of therapists the rest and recuperation time they need, and haven’t forced any upskilling, online training or team zoom sessions at all. For these team leaders, personally, I applaud you. There are certainly others who have placed a lot more pressure on their teams to engage, to keep training and ‘not be lazy’. But the truth is, pandemic fatigue is very real, and it will most certainly have an effect on our skills as therapists when we return.

To say I’m apprehensive about returning to work is putting it lightly. I know many of my peers are nothing but excited, and I wonder if I’m alone in my feelings of nervousness for the return to work. However, I hope this isn’t the case, and write this in the hope others will find comfort that they also aren’t alone, and maybe have the courage to share this piece (and your own apprehensions) with your team leader. Here are some of my main questions and concerns when it comes to getting back into clinic:

  1. I work in three different settings - a large hotel spa, a small skin clinic, and inside a healthcare facility alongside a registered nurse. I won’t be returning to the spa for now, as there are 10+ girls on my team and I’ve volunteered to stay off the roster. With the 5 client cap, there are other staff that need the work more than me. But what happens when that cap is lifted? I will be returning to working in a couple’s room - this means with 3 other people simultaneously and exposure to a whole lot more people in a given day. I’m not sure that I’m comfortable with that. I’m personally all for the client cap of 5, as it reduces exposure greatly.
  2. Can I trust that the receptionist is strictly checking everyone’s check-ins and vaccination passports? 100% of the time? Not letting a single person through? In the past I’ve seen plenty of instances, in and out of the clinic (and even been guilty of this myself) asking clients “have you checked in?” they politely respond yes and it’s off we go into the treatment room. No sighting of a green tick. We cannot afford to do this, ever, even once.
  3. I’m nervous about having to deal with angry clients. Nobody wants to do that. But it feels inevitable at this point. How do we deal with this? Do we need to create a team protocol? How many times a week will I have to have a low-level fight with a client about not providing their vaccination passport or proof of exemption?
  4. I’m nervous about the burnout. There is going to be a huge influx of clients that will probably last until Christmas. Are our managers going to give us enough time in between clients to adequately clean? Or to catch up on months of retailing of homecare? Or extra time consulting in order to manage all of the inevitable bucketloads of skin problems caused by 3 months of self-prescribing?
  5. Am I going to survive going back to work? I feel so drained and lethargic these days that it can be a struggle to get through a few hours of work. Are we all going to burn out upon returning to full workloads in the clinic? Particularly after months of reduced social interaction, our capacity for social engagement has probably lessoned, and we all know just how much love and energy we give to our clients. This has to come from a full cup, but does anyone really have a full cup to offer right now?
  6. What happens if there is a COVID-positive case in the clinic? What’s the protocol here? Do we have one yet? What about the financial repercussions of this?

So, to all business owners out there - I humbly request that you be kind to your team. These are just some of many questions and concerns your therapists may be feeling, but won’t ever express. Do your best to be kind, forgiving, and accommodating of the fact that it will take time to get back into our groove, and to get comfortable again. We will be slow. We will be out of practise. We will most likely suck at retailing. But you know what? It will only be temporary. We will get back on top - and when we do, you can bet that we’ll be better than ever!

And to all of those who are reading this and not yet ABIC members, now is absolutely, undeniably, the time to join. Whether you’re a therapist like me, or a salon/spa/clinic business owner - there has never been a more prudent time to connect with your community. We’ve never needed the support more, both from an emotional support standpoint and a HR, business and legal perspective. Not to mention, if you have any concerns including or in addition to the ones above, ABIC literally exists to address them. ABIC board members are in meetings with government, as often as several times a week, so that your needs don't go unheard. ABIC offers a platform for you to share your needs, questions and concerns, and deliver them straight to government in the hopes of making real change.

And to everyone who will be returning to treatments very soon - good luck, be kind to yourself, and don’t be afraid to share both your highs AND lows with your community!


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