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Fight career dormancy—and get back to your joy in dental hygiene

Aug. 31, 2022
Overworked. Underappreciated. Burned out. We know the drill by now. Taking steps to grow your career can be the spark you need to shed the bad feelings and reclaim your joy.

Overworked. Underappreciated. Burned out.

Since the start of the pandemic, the rise of these feelings in hygienists has skyrocketed. The number of hygienists looking to leave clinical hygiene is astounding—it seems as if everyone is looking for a way out. Most hygienists are feeling overwhelmed, and the stigma that there is no growth in hygiene keeps many dormant.

Many of us are working longer hours to compensate for the staffing shortage and as such are neglecting ourselves. We’re losing sight of our mindset and self-care, two very important things to help keep us going day in and day out. Without a strong mindset and proper self-care regimens, our minds and bodies start to fail us. We feel overworked, and our bodies start to ache. We feel creeping resentment and like we're underappreciated. It trickles over to our coworkers, and the culture starts to go stale. We begin to feel burnout and start looking for what’s next. The joy we once felt about our profession is no longer there.

So, how do we go about finding the joy in all of this again? It's simple, really: don’t stay dormant. To start, take time to work on yourself. Change your mindset to gratitude and positivity. Implement a self-care routine that works for your life, and stick to it. Be willing to grow and look for that growth within hygiene. Network with others who you may have gone to school with or worked with at previous offices and see what they're up to. Maybe something they’re doing will spark an interest.

Invest in yourself

Invest in your career. Many hygienists are unwilling to do this. We take just enough CEUs to meet the state requirement. We don’t go above and beyond and educate ourselves on topics that interest us. We do not stay current with products that are available to patients and therefore we fall short with patient education. We start to lose sight of what our job is, patient care—to show up each day and put patients first, educating them to the extent possible so when they leave, they have all the tools to maintain optimal oral hygiene.

Invest in good ergonomics

Take the time to work on your ergonomics. Often when we're feeling overworked and burnt out, we let our posture go. We let go of some of the strategies that play an important role in our clinical job and we find that our backs, shoulders, and wrists hurt more. Take the time to invest in learning the proper way to move throughout the day, or hire an ergonomics coach.

Leave a toxic work environment

We allow ourselves to stay in toxic environments that no longer serve us; often, we don’t know better as many of us have been working for doctors for years or started working in a toxic environment out of school.

But change is such a powerful tool! Once you decide to make a change and remove yourself from a toxic environment, the burnout starts to fade. This is when you will start to find your joy and passion again.

Network with your peers

Networking is also a very powerful tool. When we network not only with coworkers but also via social media, the possibilities become endless. Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn (to name a few) are full of new opportunities to grow personally and professionally. You can connect with people in the dental world from all over the country, opening doors you never knew were waiting for you.

Don’t stay dormant. Look for the joy again. I promise that it’s still there inside of you. Take the steps necessary to find happiness in your career. Our patients rely on us day after day, but we need to show up for ourselves first before we can show up for them. There is growth when you start to look for it. The sky’s the limit!

About the Author

Danielle Avila, BSDH, RDH

Danielle Avila, BSDH, RDH, is a leader who empowers hygienists. With more than 15 years of dental experience, she is a clinical hygienist, writer, and speaker. Her expertise is in team harmony and boosting confidence. As a career coach, Danielle helps hygienists reignite their passion and achieve work-life harmony. She aims for all hygienists to thrive and shine. Contact her at [email protected].