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An antidote for lurkers: RDH Under One Roof inspires hygienists to be more vested in their careers

Jan. 12, 2016
RDH Under One Roof inspires dental hygienists to become more vested in their careers

By Debbie Z. Sabatini, RDH

Are you a lurker? You know you are if you exist incognito, silently cruising through life inconspicuously and without incident. You're a proficient hygiene lurker if you subscribe to at least 75 dental hygiene related groups on Facebook just to see if what's happening on the outside is as bleak as or better than what's happening in your operatory. You stress over which group to unsubscribe to in order to be part of the newest group with the sole objective of being a part of vs. being left out. You are a novice lurker if you flash through a half dozen Google Chats before your first patient and curse your phone for draining its juice before you can review the Twitter updates, Pinterest posts, and Match.com requests. You're a lurker if you expend a great portion of your free time sneaking a peek at your device, making sure you don't miss a thing.

I ask you, "What has lurking done for you lately?"

Fortunately, my days of lurking ended shortly after I earned my dental hygiene license. I remember it well. For me, the demise of my lurking days was one of the first events that changed my career for the better.

The day at the office was typical-cuckoo busy. To be honest, I carried an emotional load back and forth from this office way too long. I was mad, sad, disappointed, underpaid, and overutilized, and I hated wearing the ugliest uniform the doctor spitefully picked out for the team. I suffered in silence. My schedule was overbooked in a "just in case someone cancelled" way. The doctor's ex-wife's expertise was in filling every possible millisecond of the day without regard to quality of patient care or employee fatigue.

On that day, I worked through lunch and agreed to switch a child prophy patient for a new patient assessment with another hygienist so she could pick up her kids on time. The new patient arrived late and took forever to complete the paperwork. When he finally sat in my chair, he kept calling me "Toots."

Hold on, it gets better. Instead of initiating data collection as we always do in our office, the doctor's ex-wife came back and told me to "just clean his teeth; the doctor will be in to check and make sure you did a good job." She left winking to the new patient. Then it happened. I'm not quite sure what it was, but that was the moment that catapulted an out-of-control chain reaction.

I calmly excused myself from the operatory, making sure the volume on the radio went up and the door was securely closed behind me. I approached her like a stealth bomber fixed on its target. I softly yet firmly persuaded her into her office and closed the door. Without hesitation, I looked her straight in the eye and told her I was not going to put my license at risk and the patient's overall health and well-being in jeopardy by being told what to do without following the proper protocols. I remember her shock, the color in her face going from pale to garnet, and the rest was a blur.

A breakthrough moment

The confrontation above should have happened weeks before. I was not ready or prepared to leave lurking and move on to "investing" until, like a penny from heaven, I received my monthly issue of RDH magazine. I remember reading some articles, cutting others out for future reference, and then landing on the colorful centerpiece announcing the dates for the upcoming RDH Under One Roof.

I had seen the advertisement before; heck, I even participated in the virtual RDH UOR online a few times and enjoyed the meeting from the comfort of my sofa wearing pajamas and sipping a mammoth cup of coffee.

If that was a sampling of what UOR was, why had I not registered for the live conference? Reminded of my current employment frustration, I decided to take a closer look. There were several great features that satisfied my decision to lurk no more and invest in my career:

• Countless courses presented by respected names in the industry

• Infinite possibilities of meeting those speakers and making new friends

• The venue was in a place I had never been to

• There were lots of brands I used that were exhibiting, as well as some new companies that I wanted to check out close up

• I wanted to validate the rumor about needing an additional suitcase with all the samples given at RDH Under One Roof

"Do it!" I said to myself. I registered, booked the redeye to Las Vegas, and began the countdown.

My first RDH Under One Roof conference did not disappoint! In fact, it was unlike any other CE event I had ever been to. The energy was electric and unending. There was always something to do, places to be, and people to meet. A variety of great courses, social opportunities at sponsored lunches, award ceremonies, and an exhibit hall full of the most passionate corporate representatives sharing the virtues of their products and dispensing copious amounts of samples. Yes, the rumor is true-pack an extra bag! Did I mention the evening "liquid libation" hours only a sleepless venue like Vegas can host? The conference hosts receptions for hygienists on most evenings.

I was hooked, addicted to building a better me that was more therapeutically effective for my patients. I wanted to be confident in my skills of communication and acknowledge my self-worth. If you were to ask me what was the best part of my trip, I would have to say everything! The PennWell team did an outstanding job creating an opportunity for attendees to step out of the operatory box, and learn and earn CE in an energized venue where everyone interacts lavishly.

Personally, I had a life-changing experience during the Sunstar/RDH Award of Distinction ceremony. Seated in the ballroom with hundreds of amazing new friends, I listened to the information about the award recipients. Wow! I was impressed with the fearlessness of the nominees. They came from diverse backgrounds; yet the common thread was their desire to fill the void in dental health whether in elder care, education, access to care, or community service. The ceremony brought me to tears and renewed my desire to do more, learn more, grow more, and find my self-value.

I was a lurker no more. Watch out, world! I'm vested in my future. I am empowered.

Armed with countless ideas and industry mentors that I connected with at RDH Under One Roof, I was ready to ditch my valueless lurking habits and begin to empower myself. First task: Register for the next conference. Second task: Say bye-bye to toxic sources. They do not align with the energy and spirit that surround me. Third task: Tell everyone I know about the virtues of attending RDH Under One Roof (That was the easiest task!).

In 2015

Since my first trip, the layers of valuable information continue to grow and outperform the previous year. The team at PennWell who are responsible for recognizing the wants and needs of the industry are laser focused and on point. The 15th annual RDH Under One Roof in our nation's capital is positioning itself to be one of the most highly attended conferences since its inception. The caliber of workshops and general sessions are sure to inspire the neophyte and invigorate the seasoned attendee.

I am always excited to attend "The RDH View Live," which has some of the most energetic and opinionated panelists assembled on one stage. Some of the other programs being presented are detailed at RDHUnderOneRoof.com.

Noel Kelsch will lead us again during Dental Impact with the "Team Approach to Patients Dealing with Cancer." Register early as this program is on Thursday and sells out each year.

This will be my third year to be selected for the curriculum. This year, I am honored to co-present with one of last year's Sunstar Award of Distinction recipients, Amy Kinnamon. Our general session is titled "You, the Dental Health Professional: Are You Keeping Your Patients in Chronic Health Limbo?" and is medically relevant in today's battle against biofilm and the desire for patients to achieve and maintain long-term health and wellness.

There are so many amazing programs to wet your whistle and challenge your future goals.

Along with the countless opportunities to expand your knowledge, several of the corporate companies will be hosting social events in recognition of all the virtues afforded us in our profession. These are some of the most fun hours, letting loose and cementing new friendships at UOR! There are also numerous panel discussions, exhibit-hall demonstrations, new friends to meet, and old friends to catch up with!

In my all-too-familiar - yet still hard-to-acknowledge-progression in age (I'm getting older), I recognize the lack of fulfillment I had experienced during my former years. Hindsight is a hard pill to swallow. I regret (yes, deeply regret) not becoming more outspoken much earlier during the critical moments of my life and career. I wish I took advantage of the opportunities to vocalize my opinion more when it came to my career and the care of my patients. I gained this knowledge and support by investing in programs and opportunities such as those offered at RDH UOR. You do not have to sit in the shadows anymore.

So I ask you: Are you ready to leave lurking in silence and cross over to investing in your future? It's relatively simple. Log onto RDHUnderOneRoof.com right now. Register and sign up for the courses that resonate with your heart and challenge you professionally. Call your best friend and co-lurker, and pull them out of the dark side of the operatory. Know that the future is right now, and the fun and growth begins July 27-29 at the massive Gaylord Palms in National Harbor, Maryland. Don't miss out! See you there! RDH

Debbie Z. Sabatini, RDH, is the founder of the OralED Institute. She has presented continuing education on a number of topics including oral-systemic health, oral abnormality screening techniques for cancer prevention, oral HPV, effective communication, and technologies for risk assessment. In 2015, Debra cofounded the All.Cancer.Prevention.Coalition (ACPC.org), a nonprofit whose purpose is to support a medley of cancer causes with its focus on early detection through education and screening events, as well as to comfort and support patients and families diagnosed with cancer.