Editor's Note

RDH eVillage conducted a "career satisfaction" survey earlier this year. One question asked dental hygienists about how often they think about changing careers. Of the 1,125 who participated in the survey, only 20% never think about changing.

RDH eVillage conducted a "career satisfaction" survey earlier this year. One question asked dental hygienists about how often they think about changing careers. Of the 1,125 who participated in the survey, only 20% never think about changing.

I think most American workers sporadically reach a point where they think, "Man, I'm too experienced to be doing this stuff," or "If they ask me to do that one more time, I'm going ballistic." Americans are stressed by the demands of their jobs. We vent to family members all the time about what bothers us about work.

By the way, the final statistics to the survey's question were:

• 18% said they think about leaving dental hygiene monthly

• 15% said once a year

• 14% said once a week

• 14% said once a day

• 9% said once a decade

• 3% said hourly

Be careful about asking a favor from that last group.

A common theme about the stress factors affecting dental hygiene is the business side of dentistry. For example, these three comments are made in the survey:

• Love the health field but dentistry is only about production, production, production.

• My boss values quantity over quality. Many of my coworkers will not leave their position because of the salary, even though the stress is sometimes exhausting. But sometimes I question: Are we selling our souls to the devil?

• We are no longer valued team members but production horses only.

Don't pin too much blame on the devil, though, who is otherwise known as the boss, employer, or the individual sweetly introduced to patients as the "doctor who will save your oral health." Thirty-four percent of the hygienists surveyed said the employer "typically" causes the stress they feel. Other things, including the 8% who are "typically" stressed by their relationships with patients, stress out the other two-thirds of the dental hygiene universe.

Different things push our buttons.

A healthy business - if the employer is fair with rewards, equitable in management, and enthused about the delivery of terrific health-care services - is a terrific way to reduce stress, isn't it? Back in the old days, hygienists would say, "There are plenty of jobs, just not that many with good bosses." (I doubt this perspective has changed much.)

Many consultants strongly advocate that dental hygienists must have a better understanding of the business systems in their dental practices. Normally, if you say, "I'm going to trip that consultant the next time he (or she) walks down the hall," I would ask, "Which foot are you going to use? The left one or the right one?" But the consultants do have a valid point. Doing such-and-such task for the umpteenth time goes much more smoothly if you clearly see why the business needs you to do it. Instead of thinking about going postal, you're plugging along with the realization that a healthy business is moving forward. This is good for the employer, of course. But it's also good for patients and staff members.

So I was delighted when Dianne Watterson, the "Staff Rx" columnist who is also a consultant, wrote "Understanding your numbers" on page 16. A calculator might be needed to avoid some head scratching while reading it.

In her conclusion, Dianne writes, "Hygienists should be interested in the specific metrics associated with their work ... Hygienists should also be innovative problem-solvers when number-crunching reveals areas of concern."

The last part actually sounds kind of fun, doesn't it? You would enjoy those aha moments when they hit you during the commute to work. At that point, you literally can't wait to arrive at the office. At that point, the only stress in your career is the traffic lights impeding your arrival.

Mark Hartley
markh@pennwell.com

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