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Are you worth it? Production counts, but wage hikes for hygienists depend on other factors too

Jan. 12, 2016
All employees anticipate the anniversary of their hiring date because it means a potential raise. What factors help hygienists earn the pay raise?

By Jennifer Rinker, RDH, BS

All employees anticipate the anniversary of their hiring date because it means a potential raise. They spend time wondering whether they'll get a raise, and if so, how much. The economy has been harsh for a few years now, so it's been harder to get a raise. There was a time when raises were given simply based on how long a hygienist had been employed.

But now it's important for employees to make themselves stand out. What can every hygienist do to prove to his or her employer that granting a raise will be worth the business investment?

Many articles have been written about raises in dental hygiene. All hygienists know production is a big factor in this. After all, dental offices are businesses that need to remain profitable. What hygienists do every day to promote production is imperative to the financial health of the business. The more restorative procedures hygienists discuss with patients, the busier and more profitable the office will become. Hygienists know that the treatment recommendations they make to patients each day carry a lot of weight for whether patients pursue or decline dental treatment.

Center of Attention

Production is not the only factor that can help hygienists get a raise. What tasks can set one employee apart from the other, or help employees prove they deserve more money? The good news is that many tasks need to be completed, and the hygienist is responsible for keeping track of these tasks and presenting them to the employer. Also, hygienists should keep a list of patients who prefer to see only them. These are people who have developed trust for the hygienist and are more willing to take his or her advice for recommended treatment.

These are the patients who are more likely to have crowns, bridgework, and other esthetic work done when their favorite hygienist explains the need. These patients take care of what needs to be fixed (active oral disease), and they also trust the RDH with their smile-those stained or faded composites that should be redone, the smile that would benefit from whitening, the space that would be best if it had a bridge or implant placed. These are the patients who keep the schedule full and bring in a consistent money flow.

A valuable RDH should meet or exceed the standard of care. Patients will then see the value of their services. A hygienist should not spend too much time talking about things that have nothing to do with a patient's oral health. Yes, it's important to develop a relationship with patients, but the appointment should focus on them, not the RDH.

Employees should use their time wisely, assessing the medical history, obtaining blood pressure, performing thorough plaque and calculus removal, doing complete periodontal probing and clinical attachment loss, doing a thorough oral cancer screening, sharing individualized oral hygiene instructions and dental treatment recommendations, and other necessary services. The patient should be the center of attention.

Community Involvement

When employees volunteer in their community, it reflects positively on the dental office. Doing volunteer work at the local schools, churches, food pantries, homeless shelters, and more shows commitment to the community. People connect this act of kindness with the dental office. This is an easy commitment someone can make to reflect positively on one's employment. Furthermore, it makes people feel good to help others in need.

It would be a nice gesture to plan and organize events for the office. Give Kids A Smile day, local parades, and other events are good opportunities to get the office involved in the community, and may lead to potential business.

The opposite can also hold true. People can do things in the community that reflect poorly on the dental office. People need to think about how they treat others in the community, their attitude, and their compassion or lack thereof toward others. Employees also need to be cautious about what they post on social media. These are all things that ultimately reflect on a person and his or her place of employment.

All people have bad days at work. Everyone needs to vent from time to time. However, employees need to be careful who they vent to and where they do the venting. It's important to be aware of who can overhear the conversation because voices carry. If there's something other people shouldn't hear, it shouldn't be said at all. Also, hygienists need to be careful not to complain or vent about their workplace to patients.

RDHs should keep up on continuing education and advancing their education in general. Staying on top of current products and dental hygiene knowledge is imperative to keeping patients healthy. Patients want to know that the person taking care of their health is well educated and knows what they're doing.

What a person does on their downtime is also a factor. Employers are looking for employees who care about their business. They want employees who aren't always on their cell phone, performing other business, or looking at social media. They want employees who are willing to help in other departments during downtime. Cross-training in other departments is a valuable asset. Valuable employees are always willing to learn new skills, and employers notice this willingness.

Employers want employees who will come up with ideas to help the office grow.

They welcome ideas that can save the office money or make it more productive and profitable. They encourage employees to implement these ideas and take charge of making them happen.

All employees should use office equipment with respect and care, and perform the proper maintenance to help it last longer. Team members should use the tools provided to guide patient acceptance of hygiene and dental care.

Every RDH should be prepared for his or her review. Have in hand the average amount of daily production, current wage, examples of teamwork, community service, patient acceptance of treatment recommendations, and continuing education and how it helped the office. The RDH should keep track of all of the things done over and above the required hygiene work, and should discuss them with the employer during the review. Show the boss what resulted in more business and more profit. Showing an employer these items is sure to help the employer see that the employee is worth a raise. RDH

Jennifer Rinker, CNA, RDH, BS, received her associate's degree in dental hygiene from Madison College in Madison, Wis., and her bachelor's degree in oral health promotion from O'Hehir University. She is the current secretary for the WI-DHA and a two-time attendee of CAREERfusion. She is a clinical dental hygienist in a general dental practice. She is also an oral care specialist with HyLife, LLC, which allows her to take an active role in preventing dependent adults from "dying from dirty teeth." She can be contacted at [email protected].