Your purpose

Aug. 1, 1998
Whether you`re a seasoned hygienist or a novice just ready to begin your journey, you must rekindle your commitment to your profession. Revitalizing your passion for dental hygiene is essential. With passion, we are motivated and enthusiastic about what we are doing. We truly are able to identify our purpose and articulate it within a meaningful philosophy.

A mission statement identifies your professional objectives.

Cynthia McKane-Wagester, RDH

Whether you`re a seasoned hygienist or a novice just ready to begin your journey, you must rekindle your commitment to your profession. Revitalizing your passion for dental hygiene is essential. With passion, we are motivated and enthusiastic about what we are doing. We truly are able to identify our purpose and articulate it within a meaningful philosophy.

For us, the most important thing is a commitment to excellence. Excellence means striving to be the best that we can be in our practices. Even if we don`t perform perfectly, if we strive to the best of our ability, surround ourselves with good people, and treat our patients with care and consideration, then we cannot fail. More than anything else, we must desire to be the best.

Our coworkers also must feel this passion because it will motivate them. One of the greatest advantages of understanding our purpose is demonstrating the value of the care and service we provide. The words needed to explain the advantages of dental treatment flow automatically when they come from the heart. Because you maintain a clear vision of the difference dentistry can make in someone`s lifestyle and health, you`ll take advantage of every opportunity to give the patient more information.

To become an excellent hygienist, you must first envision your objectives and set your goals. The steps, if implemented over the next six months, will rekindle your enthusiasm.

Develop a philosophy of practice

Dennis Waitley, in Being the Best, observes, "Offer the best you have, and assume the best in return." Just as it is true that no two people are exactly alike, it also is true that no two people have exactly the same basic philosophy. It is extremely important to know exactly what your mission is. However, most people do not have a written document that clearly states their mission. Take the time to think this issue through, because it provides the "passion power" for your personal and professional development.

A strong sense of mission is essential if you are to reach objectives. Before your objectives can become clear, you must think about your purpose. Without a clear picture of purpose or direction, you simply will tread water. Think about why you work in dentistry. Where do you intend to be in five years in terms of your job, yourself, your family, and the practice of dental hygiene? In other words: What`s your vision?

Some mission statements are very short: "It is my purpose to assist every patient to achieve a lifetime of dental health." Alternatively, they can be more inclusive: "My purpose is to help people achieve a state of optimal dental and oral health personally appropriate for them. By continually striving to provide excellence in personal and professional service, I intend to accomplish this in a caring and gentle manner, thus enhancing the quality of my patients` lives."

The statements represent broad orientation. They can, if you choose, be much narrower: "I recognize and wish to concentrate on the dental-health needs of senior citizens. It is my mission to educate and cater to the special needs of this important and growing segment of the population."

A person who has a written statement reflecting his/her sense of purpose is in a much stronger position when the time comes to develop individual marketing strategies. When you know who you are, it is much easier to know what to do in each and every situation.

Once you create and commit to your philosophy, then you can find the right dental office that will allow you to practice what you believe.

Walk and talk your philosophy. Practice what you preach. Establish standards and monitor the health of your dental-hygiene practice. Your department truly is the pulse of the practice. A successful practice must have loyal patients. Many of them will see you far more frequently and for longer appointments than they will ever see the dentist. It is your ethical and professional responsibility to educate and motivate your patients to accept the treatment you know they need. Remember, no one ever becomes successful by doing only what is required of them. Raise your standards and give more of yourself. Then, you will achieve the success you deserve.

Set goals

"When you embark on something, fix your intentions and put selfishness behind you, then you cannot fail." This quote comes from Miyamoto Musashi, who wrote The Book of Five Rings, 1596. Goal-setting gives you a sense of direction and keeps you focused. It also prevents frustration. For you to have any chance of achieving your goals, they must be written down. If you don`t commit your goals to paper, they are not goals!

We can set goals in many areas of our lives:

- Social and family

- Business and family

- Self-actualization

Here are six steps to follow in setting and achieving these goals:

1. Identify a goal - decide what you truly want to achieve as an individual, office, or staff member.

2. Define your objectives and strategies for accomplishing each goal.

3. Identify the person who is responsible for each strategy related to achieving each goal.

4. Set a time or date for accomplishment of each goal or strategy - no more than one year away.

5. Evaluate your methods. Even if your original strategy does not work, learn from it! Change your strategy and work ahead! Be prepared to embrace change. One main reason why people don`t achieve what they want is that they`re afraid to change.

6. Realize that growth comes from all types of experiences - be positive! Problems are meant to be solved. Assigning blame is worthless and counterproductive. Ask yourself, "What can I do to make things better?" Turn negatives into positives and grow!

Keep your goals realistic and describe in great detail how you will benefit in the long run. Also, make a point of writing down, as vividly as you can, what will happen if you don`t meet your goals. Try to describe the changes in your life and that of your family that will happen in one, five, or 10 years - whether you achieve them or not. By creating a realistic understanding of the pain you will have if you fail and the pleasure you will have if you succeed, your motivation will increase exponentially.

Remember, there are three kinds of people in the world:

- Those that make it happen.

- Those that watch it happen.

- Those that wonder, "What happened?"

If you don`t know where you are going, it doesn`t matter what road you take.

Cynthia McKane-Wagester is president of McKane & Associates, a full-service management firm located in Baltimore, Md. She is a graduate of the University of Maryland`s Dental Hygiene School and has considerable private-practice experience in addition to founding a placement service. She has provided consulting services for more than 12 years. Her firm teaches a win-win approach to profitability with special emphasis on assisting teams in reaching their pinnacle level of excellence. She is the author of Dental Hygiene: A Practice Within a Practice©, 1995. She can be reached at (800) 341-1244.

The essentials of your mission

Here is a list of things that your mission statement might include if you are seeking to be effective:

- A declaration about quality, excellence, and efficiency as they relate to your personal and professional life. For a hygienist to be truly successful, her head, heart, and hands have to become one. You must have talent and determination. Most of all, you must love your work. You must make a commitment to being the best. Your knowledge of your field must be current.

- A statement that reflects your position regarding honesty, integrity, and fairness in dealing with patients. Dental hygiene has a code of ethics, and we must hold ourselves accountable to it.

- The kind of atmosphere you want to create within an organization, not only for your family, but also for the practice with which you associate. Remember, the dental team plays the most important role in the success of a practice. Very few external factors have as much impact as does the quality of the team. Take charge and take the initiative.

- The type of people you prefer to serve in your practice.

- The areas in which you are especially interested (preventive dentistry, community involvement, children`s needs, etc.).