Dermatologist Visit in the Days of COVID-19

COVID-19 has changed everything. Let’s face it. From drive-thru graduation ceremonies to masks in public becoming not only commonplace but expected, our world has seen a marked change in a very short time. There is almost nowhere you can look without seeing big changes and modifications for public health and safety. Visiting a doctor’s office is just one experience that has seen significant changes in protocol.

A COVID-19 dermatologist appointment

I recently had my first visit to my dermatologist since the COVID-19 quarantine began in March. It was clear my visit wouldn’t be a typical one even before the day arrived. I always receive a text and an email the day before my visit prompting me to check-in online. That wasn’t new - it was expected. What I didn’t expect was the list of questions I was asked to complete prior to registering online. The list was extensive and is pictured in screenshots below.

prescreen 1
prescreen 2
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A temperature check

My dermatologist’s office is located in a building that is split into two separate offices with a short lobby separating them. I walked in expecting some changes but was a little surprised to see that a table had been set up in the lobby with a nurse in a mask waiting to take the temperature of anyone who wished to enter the office. Ahead of me at the table was a UPS driver. He, too, had to wait to have his temperature taken and answered the short list of questions related to COVID-19: Have you had a fever in the last 24 hours? Do you have or have you had any of the symptoms related to the coronavirus? Have you been exposed to anyone who has been diagnosed with COVID-19?

Spaced out chairs and plexiglass

Once I entered the dermatologist’s waiting area, I immediately noticed the spacing of chairs. They were all in pairs about three to four feet apart and facing the same wall. This was much different from their usual arrangement. There was no way to step up to the reception desk. Three tables, each about two feet wide, had been placed in front of the desk to prevent anyone from easily leaning on the desk. They included a length of tape which further served to make the tables noticeable. The reception area had been walled off with large sheets of plexiglass making it only possible to slide pens, paper, and forms of payment underneath. Every employee not shielded by plexiglass was wearing a mask.

Additional precautions

The examination room itself didn’t appear much different from previous visits. One stark contrast was the large wall display which is normally home to numerous pamphlets for patients to read or take for later reference. I can’t count the number of times my dermatologist has pulled literature from one of those racks to better explain a skin condition to my children or me. Guarding against the spread of the coronavirus includes removing everything patients may touch and replace. It’s changing our public landscape - no doubt.

empty rack

Still, a thorough exam

My skin exam itself was conducted as usual. My doctor always washes his hands in my presence before beginning an exam, and this visit was no different. Masks were the common denominator in the change, however. Both my nurse and doctor wore masks the entire time, and I removed mine so my face could be examined closely for precancerous lesions.

Dermatologist appointments aren't all that scary

If you have yet to brave a doctor’s visit, I can tell you that it isn’t as scary as your imagination might have led you to believe. Extra precautions have been put into place in physicians’ offices across the country, and they are there for all of us. If you are immunocompromised or nervous about the risk of exposure to COVID-19, talk with your doctor or nurse, and request a telehealth visit if possible.

These are strange times, without a doubt. Masks, hand sanitizer, and signs reminding us all that 6 is the magic number of feet to remain from your neighbor inundate our days. We won’t soon forget 2020 and the many ways our day-to-day lives have been altered, but we can be grateful for the precautions being put into place for the safety of us all.

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