BY Lory Laughter, RDH, BS
The topics for this column normally come from questions being asked by dental hygienists via social media, during my courses, or in emails sent to me. Knowing what is on the minds of my colleagues directs me to finding sites with answers or useful resources. On Aug. 24, the questions for this column came at 3:23 a.m. in the form of an earthquake. Nothing makes you ponder your own personal preparedness better than a shaking house followed by complete darkness.
I considered myself ready for an emergency in my home. I have flashlights, water, and a first aid kit. Yet, on the morning of the earthquake I found myself carefully counting out steps in the dark to reach my flashlight on another floor of my home. The task was further complicated by my use of crutches and a dog stuck to my side like Velcro. After checking my house and the neighbor's home for any gas leaks or immediate dangers, the reality of the situation became apparent. The batteries were in the refrigerator and the flashlights in another location. The first aid kit was back on the second floor. My water was somewhere in the garage, and the only food in my house were protein bars and vinegar.
The only thing I was prepared for was a wake-up call.
There are basic items we should all have at the ready in our homes in case of an emergency. The Ready campaign has a website devoted to helping your family assemble the necessary supplies.1 Many sites offer to sell emergency kits, but the price is much more than you will spend putting together your own kit. It is not enough to have the necessary supplies as I learned that morning. You must also keep them together in an easily accessible location. A working flashlight in your sleeping area is also a great idea.
I do have a battery-operated radio, but I found it amazing on this particular morning that so many people have battery backup on their Internet source. We had no power, no streetlights, and some residents were without water. However, we could share the panic on Facebook with no problem.
Emergencies come in many forms and do not always happen when we are at home. It is important to make sure your place of employment is also prepared for the unexpected. Schools are normally stocked with supplies such as food, water, and first aid kits. But workplaces often overlook the need for such items. Now is a good time to consider how well you could function if you were stuck at your office for an extended period of time after an earthquake, hurricane, tornado, or weather related emergency.
Most urgent situations occurring in dental offices are medical related. While we all know an emergency drug kit and protocol is necessary, it still shocks me how many dental practices lack the basic recommended drugs or an AED. Dr. John Roberson and Dr. Christopher Rothman wrote an excellent article on the emergency drug kit published in Dental Economics and available on DentistryIQ.com.2 Offices can also purchase medical emergency kits preassembled from a number of manufacturers. Keep in mind that it is still essential for every team member to be familiar with the kit contents and where it is located.3 It is easy to purchase a kit and place it in a drawer within the practice. But if the kit or correct medication cannot be located quickly when needed, it is useless.
Not every disaster we face comes from a force of nature. As important as it is to be prepared for natural disasters, it is equally essential to prepare for career changes and situations you cannot predict. In the last two or three years, my inbox has received weekly emails from dental hygienists shocked by a sudden job termination. Some were employed for 10 or more years in the same office and were suddenly found without a job - the one common denominator being no one saw it coming.
I am shocked at the number of my colleagues without a resume updated and ready for presenting. Equally surprising is how many fail to ask for a letter of recommendation before leaving. Unless you are fired for incompetence and in a fury of anger, your employer will most likely provide you with a letter to assist in finding another position. If you find yourself without an adequate resume or want to improve upon the one you have now, there are several good websites to guide you.
One website often referenced on social media is GetHiredRDH.4 The site provides tips on everything from your resume to choosing an appropriate email address. The website also provides resume writing services, templates, and skill building for interviews. There is a fee for some services, but many free tips are offered on the site. I have personal knowledge of dental hygienists obtaining employment after using GetHiredRDH for their resume writing and all were very satisfied with the finished product.
Shirley Gutkowski offers resume help specific to the dental hygienists through The Purple Guide website. There are benefits to utilizing her skills as a dental hygienist to help create a resume geared specifically for our profession. In addition to an outstanding resume, those using the service also receive a copy of "The Purple Guide: Paper Persona."
Changes will happen in your personal and professional life. Whether these changes present in the form of a natural disaster or career-altering situation, the same response is required. Be prepared before the emergency, practice your response, and act rationally. The Internet provides a great starting place for information, resources, and even supplies to aid in your personal journey for preparedness. RDH
Web resources referred to in this article
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics. She can be contacted at [email protected].