Editor's Note

Nov. 1, 2012
Somewhere in the history of the Editor’s Note for RDH, the “aunts” who used to open correspondence every fall ...

by Mark Hartley

Somewhere in the history of the Editor’s Note for RDH, the “aunts” who used to open correspondence every fall were mentioned in a note written by me. By correspondence, I refer to snail mail, and the months of September and October required assistance in opening envelopes for the annual salary survey conducted by RDH magazine. The questionnaire was printed in RDH, and hygienists dutifully filled it out and purchased a stamp to mail it to the magazine.

By “aunts,” I am not referring to kinfolk of mine. They were just older employees who helped sort and tabulate the statistics. They were nice women who didn’t mind helping the magazine with its, uh, fall harvest. But they would stop me as I passed through the office.

“Goodness gracious, Mark. Read this one. I have never seen anyone get so upset over earning $25 an hour!” (Remember, this was a while back when the $25 hourly rate was closer to the national average.)

Sure enough, I would listen as she read aloud in front of everyone the comments from a reader who would be “venting” about not receiving a raise in several years, or that a young grad was just hired at the same salary. I would explain to the aunts some of the frustrations of being an employee. It was not too difficult to do, since they were employees too. However, the explanation required the additional discussion of how dental hygienists are licensed health-care professionals, and employers don’t always consider that factor in valuing dental hygienists.

But sure as pumpkins, this conversation with the aunts occurred just about every year.

Thanks to the digital transformation, the aunts do other tasks now. The salary survey is electronic and appears in RDH eVillage (see sidebar about viewing some of the articles from this fall).

But I thought of the aunts this fall too, wondering if anyone besides dental hygienists, the American Dental Hygienists’ Association, and myself cares about a reduction in hourly rates in nine states, as reported by RDH eVillage last month. It has been a rugged few years for just about everyone trying to make a go of it in a tough economic climate.

“So hygienists are earning a few dollars less now, huh? Watch the tears stream down my face.”

But it is important to us. I remember reading the comments from hygienists in recent years who were worried about the affect of too many dental hygiene schools opening up in their regions. Everyone came up with a top 10 list of the best jobs in America to pursue, and dental hygiene invariably made the lists. Dental hygiene is a boom industry; good-paying jobs are plentiful.

Not exactly true, as it turns out. The statistics now provide evidence that there is a reversal in income.

I mentioned the ADHA earlier. The association played a key role in halting the expansion of dental hygiene schools (although I think the damage had already been done). In recent years, the ADHA implemented several standards to enhance the national identity of the profession. The association remains vigilant in its efforts to support the profession. I suspect they, too, have encountered less than sympathetic attention from those outside the profession.

“Dental hygienists are having a tough time, huh? Watch the tears stream down my face.”

It seems like someone is always writing (even back in the days of the aunts) about how important it is for dental hygienists to support the ADHA through membership, right this very second. Or else, we might perish.

If anyone wants to make that passionate plea in the waning days of 2012, I’d be inclined to agree. Your career needs help, and you’re the readers who can provide it.

Mark Hartley
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Although a summary of the 2012 salary survey for dental hygienists will appear in the January 2013 issue of RDH, readers can view articles currently appearing in RDH eVillage by visiting DentistryIQ.com or www.rdhmag.com. A link to all of the articles is provided at the top of the hygiene section on DentistryIQ.com and the home page of RDHmag.com.

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