by Mark Hartley
My colleague at Dental Economics, Kevin Henry, shared with me a blog that went viral in August. A Generation Xer was in a coffee shop working on his laptop when an elderly gentleman interrupted him. Somewhat distracted by the interruption, the blogger tried to keep the conversation to a minimum before realizing he was talking to the inventor of computers. (The blog is actually quite inspirational; google Joel Runyon and “Blog of Impossible Things.”)
The blog’s message is twofold. Strangers outside of your comfort zone can end up being the source of meaningful conversations. Secondly, the inventor of computers, Russell Kirsch, advised Runyon, “Do things that have never been done before.”
Think about all of the inventions that you’ve come to admire. There was never any special designation that only those inventors would do something that has never been done before. They merely saw something different, and ended up enhancing the quality of our lives. We often become cynical toward someone who wants to do something that has never been done before, primarily because of extraneous criticism from people who don’t do anything that hasn’t been done before.
A young Millennial named Seth Mattison was the keynote speaker at RDH Under One Roof last month. He was the youngest keynote speaker ever at the dental hygiene conference. Of all possible topics, his topic was on how different generations can work and learn from each other. He was funny, yet very insightful.
I spent the rest of the conference making sure that I did not just hang around people “my age.” It was difficult from a logistical standpoint. Most people my age walk the halls of a convention center at a different pace — slower.
If we would just give them a chance, dental hygienists would do things that have never been done before.
Before the theater killer in Aurora, before the American Dental Association released a report regarding the “economic viability” of mid-level providers, I spent a few days thinking about the direct access (independent) hygienists in Colorado. The state isn’t exactly overrun by them (approximately 50). You can’t just take a leisurely stroll from one office to the next one. You might actually have to cross the Continental Divide to visit the next closest direct access hygienist. They have done something, however, that has never been done before. Most of the criticism leveled at direct access hygienists comes from dental professionals who stick to traditional views.
That’s OK, I guess. But I’m still impressed, even if only a handful of dental hygienists have paved their own path. Colorado’s designation of “direct access hygienists” technically is not a mid-level provider. They are self-employed dental hygienists who are not under the supervision of a dentist. These hygienists often incorporate additional services to increase patients’ comfort during treatment — in a untraditional setting.
The “economic viability” study involved collecting data in five states where dental therapist and advanced dental hygiene practicitioner models are being considered as a method to improve access to care. The studies examined everything from the cost of educating a mid-level provider to projected revenues. The researchers concluded that the practice models are not “economically viable,” and the ADA agreed.
Although full-time female dentists treat restoratively with the best of their male counterparts, the study did not examine the economic viability of female dentists who choose to balance a family oriented lifestyle with their dental practices. It didn’t examine the economic viability of dentists who simply prefer to travel more than most, closing offices for weeks at a time.
Gary Vollan, LD, of the Wyoming State Denturist Association, blogged on the PennWell community site: “[Divisive politics] forces many of us in the dental professions to spend our time and resources fighting for recognition and fighting for our right to serve those in need of our services which we have been trained and educated in ... It is wrong for the ADA, a nonprofit organization, to use its member dues to fight and lobby against the dental professions working to better the oral health-care needs of Americans.”
Economic viability should be under the same umbrella where cultural diversity is encouraged and embraced. Do things that have never been done before.
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