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The DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program: Leadership

Jan. 1, 2021
Part one of this series exploring the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program’s five pillars defines leadership in dental hygiene using the Leadership Circles of Influence. Christine Diehl and Sarah Varney elaborate.

DSO Hygiene Excellence is a national organization created to elevate the profession of dental hygienists working in dental offices that are owned by a dental support organization (DSO). DSO Hygiene Excellence’s mission is to build leaders who can use their understanding of the business side of dentistry to improve clinical patient outcomes. Given the fact that oral health is an extension of systemic health, we recognize the value of vision-driven DSO dental hygiene practices. DSO Hygiene Excellence believes that hygienists play a vital role in collaborating with dentists and other team members to advocate for patients’ optimal health and well-being.

The five pillars of excellence

Diplomacy and teamwork
Dental/medical synergy
Clinical excellence
Business excellence

Unfortunately, when we hear “DSO” we tend to associate it with corporate dentistry and profit-driven care. Our goal is to change that. Like many of you, our dental office began as a private practice, and we operated as such for over 25 years. Acquired by a DSO four years ago, our experience has truly changed our minds about what a DSO represents and what dental hygiene looks like in the DSO construct. We created the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program to share our vision of a profession where we all practice at the highest level for ourselves and our patients. The DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program’s five pillars are Leadership, Diplomacy and Teamwork, Dental/Medical Synergy, Clinical Excellence, and Business Excellence. These pillars define and promote the future of dental hygiene. We are proud to share more about these pillars through this four-part series in RDH magazine.

DSO Hygiene Excellence believes that leadership is an essential cornerstone of dental hygiene. Each DSO has a different leadership structure, but hygiene leadership needs to be a structured component of all DSOs. As hygienists, we have a responsibility to our practices, team members, and patients to lead with positivity every day. We need to assess our accountability within our practices. The misperception of hygienists as divas in their practices still exists, and hygienists need to make it clear that divas are in it for themselves, while leaders are in it for their team. Given this fact, there is a call to action for hygienists to recognize why we need to be leaders.

Dentistry is changing rapidly, and now more than ever, we have to come together to make sure patients are getting the best care and to lead our practices through this challenging time. All leadership is personal, and now is the perfect time to assess your personal and professional leadership goals. In the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program, a leadership assessment determines your leadership style and identifies leadership skills that match your personality. Leadership does not mean becoming someone you are not; it is about leaning into your unique skills to become the leader you are. When you know your leadership style, you will recognize others’ leadership styles, easily facilitate communication, and promote a better workplace culture.

DSO Hygiene Excellence has created the DSO Hygiene Excellence Leadership Circles of Influence to include: Patient, Hygiene
Department, Doctor and Team, and Hygiene Profession. Operating within these four circles, hygiene leadership is the essential component. Whether you just graduated or are a seasoned professional, the DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat Program provides support and guidance for hygienists who desire to unlock their potential as leaders. While we all may be at different leadership stages within our careers, hygienists will have the skills and knowledge as experts in the Leadership Circles of Influence after completing the program.

The Leadership Circles of Influence are patient-centered. Your first leadership experience is with your patient; our patients rely on our expertise to guide and instruct them about their health. As hygienists, we use our influence to change habits and behaviors to produce positive results. Hygiene departments vary in size; whether there are two of you or 12 of you, leadership within your department will make the hygiene part of the practice successful. Leadership will entail collaboration between all hygiene department members to define clinical excellence and ensure the ultimate goal of achieving the best patient outcomes.

DSO Hygiene Excellence Diplomat hygienists have the opportunity and responsibility to colead with the doctor by recognizing the doctor’s unique leadership style and team members’ unique leadership styles to meet and exceed patient treatment expectations. By creating alignment with the doctor on expectations within the office, we can develop synergy between team members to provide the ultimate patient experience. We are responsible for supporting the growth and leadership development of all team members in the practice.

What does leadership look like in dental hygiene? Our influence on the future of our profession needs to be based on our vision of what we would like the industry to be for ourselves and our patients. We must champion our vision of the profession of dental hygiene and patient care to encompass dental/medical synergy models. We must also take responsibility and be accountable for our part of the business within our practices. When we provide optimal patient care, success is the result for both the patient and the practice. As hygienists, we must realize that we have the power to move patients toward health and the dental practice toward success.

The DSO Hygiene Excellence Leadership Circles of Influence start with you and your patient-centered care team. As your leadership skills develop, you will become a diplomatic team leader in your department and with your doctor. As the team develops, the success of the practice will be evident. As leaders in dental hygiene, the onus is on us to determine what our profession looks like in the years and decades to come. We need to widen the scope of dental hygiene to include dental/medical synergy models and clinical key performance indicators (KPIs) in addition to business KPIs; herein will lie the future of dental hygiene and the elevation of our profession.

The DSO Hygiene Excellence National Organization has a vision and mission to share the best dental hygiene practices within the DSO space. Join us in this mission to share the best of what dental hygiene can be for our patients and the profession. We know we are better together, and sharing best practices makes us all better. Please take this opportunity to sign up for a free DSO Hygiene Excellence National Organization membership. As part of your membership, you will receive the latest information on clinical practice and the option to participate in networking and learning opportunities offered by DSO Hygiene Excellence.

Christine Diehl, BS, RDH, has been practicing clinical dental hygiene for 28 years and currently works full-time in a DSO: DecisionOne Dental Partners. She graduated from Parkland College with her AASDH and received a BS from Northern Illinois University. Over her career, she has attended a multitude of continuing education, including LVI for Advanced Dental Studies, and received an associate fellowship from the World Clinical Laser Institute. Diehl is a cofounder of DSO Hygiene Excellence.

Sarah Varney, BSDH, RDH, has worked as a hygienist with Kendall Pointe Dental, a DSO office, since 1988. Varney is currently a graduate student at the University of Notre Dame in the EMBA program and received her AASDH from Parkland College and a BSDH honors degree with an Irene Newman Award from Fones School of Dental Hygiene. Certifications include soft tissue laser and advanced periodontal coach. Varney is the founder of CE2 and cofounder and CEO of DSO Hygiene Excellence.