Let me start by telling you that I can only imagine how challenging the last 20 months of your life have been. Most of you were laid off, with no promise of returning to your clinical treatment rooms. Most of you suffered from anxiety, depression, fear, loss of loved ones, and so much more due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
I remember texting the doctor I worked for to ask for her Starbucks order that morning. On Friday mornings, we rotate who treats the others to coffee, and it’s a magical way to start the day. Her reply shocked me: “Our office is closed due to the pandemic.” I will be very honest with you; sometimes I live under a rock, and this was a prime example of that. I did not see this coming. During the next few days, shock settled in, then panic, followed by every single stage of grief. My speaking engagements quickly cancelled throughout the country, and like many of you, I was left with the harsh reality that my unemployment would not pay my mortgage.
My family is hundreds of miles away and my mom is immunocompromised, therefore, I remained isolated in my condo. If you have a pet, you understand when I say, “I would not have made it without my dog.” There is no exaggerating the impact our pets had on comforting us during the uncertain times. Some weeks were harder than others, and I also took great comfort when my hygiene community checked in on me. The compassion I experienced throughout COVID reminds me of what we are built to endure—the challenges that life presents.
My mentor reminded me that the symbol for a dental hygienist is a tortoise, and a tortoise is resilient. Most of us were resilient like we’ve never had to be before. Most of us were reminded of what we’re made of, and sometimes it felt like heavy grit prophy paste. Many of you walked away from toxic employers during the pandemic. Many hygienists left the dental profession altogether to retire or pursue another career. Each of us was called to experience personal and professional growth from the challenging obstacle we were given.
For those who pushed through the fear of working clinically in a pandemic, we now treat patients with more significant mental health challenges and substantially higher risks for oral disease. For persevering through it all, you are a unicorn. You’re not a horse with a horn; however, you’ve achieved only what a unicorn can achieve, and only what a uniquely creative person can achieve. What you have been through professionally and personally during the last 20 months makes you a unicorn.
Happy Dental Hygiene Month and thank you for being a unicorn!