Develop an e-portfolio to highlight your professional development
By JoAnn Gurenlian, RDH, PhD
October is National Dental Hygiene Month. As such there are many wonderful opportunities to celebrate our profession. We should be proud to participate in community, state, and national events to demonstrate the benefits of being a dental hygienist and of oral health. This month might also be a good time to promote your professional career and all that you have accomplished.
At the recently held RDH Under One Roof conference, one session focused on evolving your career. One topic of discussion was creating a portfolio to document your professional profile. The presenter recommended that you create an electronic version of your profile, or an e-portfolio. An e-portfolio is a digitized collection of evidence displaying the journey throughout your educational and professional career. It is not a specific software package, but a combination of activities and outcomes-including resources and accomplishments-that organizes and documents your work on a website or other electronic media platform. The e-portfolio allows you to organize your information, showcase it, reflect upon its value and your achievements, and set goals for the future.
Within your e-portfolio, you can set up folders that highlight your educational background. This section can include writing samples, a copy of your diploma, and examples of projects you created that were exceptional, awards you received, etc. You may want to have a section that includes copies of state licenses, CPR certifications, and other significant credentials. An important section for licensure renewal is continuing education courses you have taken. Rather than have a paper trail around the house, scan any of those certificates you have and place them in your e-portfolio folder.
As a clinician, you may want a folder that features cases demonstrating the dental hygiene process of care with intraoral photos, chartings, and radiographs. Be creative. You can include a section with educational materials you have developed and even one with patient, staff, and employer testimonials.
If your career has expanded into another arena such as research, education, or sales, add folders for those sections and showcase the features that demonstrate your expertise in those areas. Include samples of PowerPoint presentations, research designs, published manuscripts, grant proposals, marketing materials, or product development.
One of the special features about an e-portfolio is that it changes the way you see yourself. Different from a resume, you will start to recognize the value of your career and what you have accomplished. A resume can appear flat and lifeless. Many times those applying for a job all look the same when viewed from the perspective of those two- or three-page submissions. However, the e-portfolio shows a journey of personal and professional development. It illustrates something that is relevant and authentic. No two e-portfolios are the same. When applying for a job, you can provide a link to either your entire e-portfolio or customize links to the relevant sections that pertain to that job.
Current students in dental hygiene programs are learning to develop e-portfolios. Those of us who have been in practice for a while may find this a relatively new concept. However, in some states, dentists are being required to use e-portfolios to obtain their license. It may be that in the near future, dental hygiene students will have a similar requirement or licensed dental hygienists will have to submit an e-portfolio as a requirement for relicensure.
Rather than shy away from this idea, look ahead and start preparing your e-portfolio. Let this October be a journey of celebration and revelation about yourself and your career.
Start by going to a search engine and looking up e-portfolios. Find a tool you like, choose some colors that suit you, and create several folders. Go through the boxes that are in your basement, office, bedroom, or dining room, and start scanning relevant material into appropriate folders to begin creating a portfolio. Add some photos and start taking stock of what you have accomplished. You might like what you see, and you might also find that there is more to your dental hygiene story than you first thought. Here's to your past, and-more importantly-your future! RDH
JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and past president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.