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Editor's note: Time to loosen those reins

May 23, 2023
What lessons about horses and reins can we apply to the dental hygiene community? Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, talks about how loosening the reins allows us to benefit from the guidance and support of our colleagues.
Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, Chief editor, RDH magazine

Growing up with horses, I always knew if you held the reins back and too tight, your horse felt the tension and often didn’t know how to respond. If you trusted the horse and the horse trusted you, you could relax those reins, and the communication between the two of you became more calming and less tense with improved response. The trust provided an enjoyable ride and a full day of adventure.

Pulling on the reins is recognized as a method of gaining control or taking control. In the movies, we will often see the rider yanking the reins and the horse responding with aggression. I often wonder, when we communicate, how are we holding the reins? Are we taking control by yanking them, or is it appropriate to relax the reins and embrace the discussion with trust and acceptance?

Several years ago, I shared breakfast with a good friend, Patti DiGangi. Through lots of laughter and lighthearted conversation, we talked about our roles in the profession and how they were changing … how we were tasked with stepping away while also lifting the new leaders within the dental hygiene community.

I think of our discussion as I watch new influencers and how so many are eager to receive words of support and guidance. I also watch as many seasoned dental hygienists step forward and are willing to mentor through their lessons of time. I have always believed that if I share what I have learned, the next generation can move forward further and faster by not having to repeat some of the same mistakes I made. How often are we relaxing the reins and providing an arena of trust with our colleagues?

The month of May is significant in many ways. We focus on the recipients of the Philips Heart to Hands Award, their achievements, and how they will influence our hygiene community. We also take time to recognize the month of May as it is dedicated to the awareness of mental health, melanoma, skin cancer, and older adults—all considerations that influence how dental hygienists care for their patients.

Amanda Hill shares her research on counter disinfectants with a summary of uses. And Kirsten Brancheau introduces us to the 2023 Philips Heart to Hands Award recipients and their achievements.

Next time you have an opportunity to provide guidance or receive direction, relax those reins a bit, don’t be afraid to exhale, and embrace the recommendations you may get. There is so much to share and learn when the reins are loosened ever so slightly. (However, if the communication is coming from someone yanking on your reins, then go ahead and buck like crazy!)

About the Author

Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH | Chief editor, RDH magazine

Jackie Sanders, MBA, RDH, has over four decades of continual career development and experience in dentistry. As the chief editor of RDH magazine, she strives to remain a proactive personality in the continual advancement of the profession. She has been defined as a motivated trendsetter and dependable colleague and is inspired by her true passion of helping others to achieve their personal goals. 

Updated February 28, 2022