The transition from dental hygiene school to a full-time dental hygiene job in a practice can be a huge adjustment. In school, you dedicated time to learning and practicing your techniques, but in a dental office, you may have only 45 minutes per patient. You’re also learning a new office layout, systems, and team members.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed your first few weeks on the job. But with planning, confidence, and a big smile, you can become acclimated quickly to your new surroundings and ensure a long and successful career.
Ask the right questions in your interview
To increase your chances of landing that dream job, remember to be yourself and be professional. Don’t get too caught up in the do’s and don’ts of interviewing—just be confident in your skills and what you have to offer.
More articles you may find inspirational
When you interview for a new job, remember that it’s an opportunity to interview your potential employer, as well. Ask questions that will help you determine if you’re a good fit for the practice and if the practice is a good fit for you. What are the doctor’s expectations? What are your potential team members’ expectations? How flexible is your schedule? Are there opportunities for mentorship? What does the new-patient process look like? Can you envision yourself having healthy professional relationships with the doctor and team?
Ask questions like these and carefully consider the answers. Ultimately, if the office environment doesn’t feel right, it probably isn’t. Don’t force it; keep looking, and you’ll find where you need to be.
Cultivate relationships to acclimate quickly
Finding the right office for you is the first step, and next, you’ll want to make yourself at home as quickly as possible so you can start providing stellar patient care. As you learn the lay of the land, don’t neglect your team members. The relationships you build with the doctor, dental assistants, and staff up front are crucial. The strength of these relationships will determine your success as a provider.
From the beginning, meet with the doctor and staff for conversations about how you can work together and what’s expected of you. This doesn’t have to be formal—take the team out to lunch, get them little goodies every so often, and connect with them as people. Understand their expectations of you and communicate your expectations of them as well. Besides making your job easier, being on good terms with the team will make the work environment a happy one for everybody.
Also, remember to maintain the confidence that landed you the job. Be yourself; you made it through school, and you have the proper skillset and training to be a great hygienist. This doesn’t mean you should pretend you know it all; don’t be afraid to ask for help and be open to suggestions and feedback. Your more experienced team members may have helpful feedback to streamline processes that help the office run smoothly.
Master your skills
Once you’re settled in your new position, take steps to make sure you’re set up for a long and successful career. One of the things we struggled with the most as new hygienists was time management. In a school environment, we had a lot of time to get everything done, but in a full-time hygiene role, that time was drastically shortened. Tricks like preauditing your charts in the morning or the day before, working with front office staff to build flexibility into your schedule, and communicating with the team if you’re falling behind will all help immensely with time management.
As you become more comfortable, work on mastering your trade. Take advantage of development opportunities so you can continuously learn and grow while taking charge of your business. It’s also important to take care of yourself physically and mentally. We recommend using ergonomic equipment, and instead of bottling up any negative emotions, talk to your team members if you’re feeling overwhelmed. No one wants to risk burnout, so staying a step ahead of mental or physical exhaustion can ensure a happy and successful career.
As you’re searching for your next career move, carefully consider the kind of culture you want to join. A happy, supportive, caring environment can go a long way in enabling your success.