Eileen Morrissey 1207rdh

Who will Reign?

July 1, 2012
I teach periodontology to dental hygiene students at Burlington County Community College in New Jersey.


I teach periodontology to dental hygiene students at Burlington County Community College in New Jersey. It is my tradition to award the Crown Jewel of Periodontics (my creation) once each week at class to a deserving student. The student who receives the award perhaps asked an insightful question or made a meaningful contribution to the class discussion. I awarded it once to Katie, who announced she had just quit smoking -- no small feat for one in the middle of core dental hygiene education. Others who are less verbal in class might be recognized for thoughts they placed in writing. Sammie, whose perfect penmanship is a pleasure to behold, was honored for her efforts. As you can see, there are a number of ways in which to earn the distinction.

While not statistically significant in terms of their grade point average, it is their privilege to hold up the crown jewel scepter I personally sculpted. My intent is to recognize the individual's efforts, acknowledging them as role models in the eyes of their peers. I have to believe that each student who is recognized feels proud and celebrated, also known as good vibrations! Perhaps this is food for thought for other teachers?

At a recent continuing education program I presented, hygienists provided examples of unique services offered by them to patients in their dental practices. I heard many good ideas, but I especially appreciated the contribution to the discussion made by one hygienist (she wished to remain anonymous), who shared a story about a recent recare visit she had while as a patient. She currently practices elsewhere, but returns to the office where she was employed for years for exams and cleanings.

At her last office visit, the hygienist and doctor awarded her a Patient of the Day award, which was a mug with the office's name on it. She was told that the award was being presented because she is a great patient. (She tells me she has good oral hygiene, shows up on time for visits, and pays her bills!)

Crown Jewel of Periodontics Award ... Patient of the Day, or Week ... whatever the recognition happens to be ... the point is that it makes people feel good to be recognized. People who are recognized continue to perpetuate their good efforts, resulting in a win/win for all parties and beyond.

I share these two examples because I think it is something we might expand upon. If you have someone in your practice who deserves to be celebrated, why not do it? Sure, many offices have the "no cavity" club where a photograph is taken and put up on a bulletin board for kids. But how about honoring adult patients? I applaud all who do so, and would like to see more of us following through with this type activity.

I had fun brainstorming different ways to recognize patients. One thought that popped into my head was how a group of waiters congregate to sing a happy birthday ditty to a patron who is celebrating the milestone at dinner. Wouldn't it be outrageous to have your dental team gather at chairside to congratulate you with a rousing cheer or song in commemoration of your oral hygiene achievements? I know, I'm forever a cheerleader. I would love this not only for the honor it bestows, but for the livening of the day in the office (sometimes things can get a bit stagnant). Just for the record, I shared that idea with a friend, who told me if his dental team ever did such a thing to him at his office, they would never see him again!

Not everybody wants that kind of limelight, so perhaps the more subtle approach is in order, such as a letter of recognition sent through the mail with a gift certificate, or a quieter presentation chairside. It might be fun to come up with ideas.

Onward we go; it is in our hearts' core! RDH

EILEEN MORRISSEY, RDH, MS, is a practicing clinician, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Burlington County College. Eileen offers CE forums to doctors, hygienists, and their teams. Reach her at [email protected] or 609-259-8008. Visit her website at www.eileenmorrissey.com.EILEEN MORRISSEY
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