Remember someone this holiday

Dec. 1, 2004
There is one special gift that I would like to share with each of you - understanding the difference between excellence and perfection.

by Anne Nugent Guignon

There is one special gift that I would like to share with each of you - understanding the difference between excellence and perfection. If perfection were possible, it would mean that everything is under our complete control, which is not a realistic thought. Many in our profession continue to focus on perfection and get very frustrated with less than perfect clinical results. Trying to be perfect is a fast track to professional disenchantment and eventually burnout. It is hard for many hygienists to accept that striving for excellence is an acceptable goal.

It is realistic to strive for excellence within our own specific clinical parameters. For example, if one has 45 minutes rather than an hour for an adult patient, less can be done in the shorter period of time. Sure, you may be able to campaign for a longer appointment. In the meantime, though, you can give your patients your best clinical skills, judgment, and caring. If you do your best considering the time frame, equipment, and your knowledge base, then you are practicing excellence.

Excellence is not a static phenomenon. It changes over time with new scientific discoveries and advances in technology, so it is critical that we keep our knowledge base current. Practicing as you were taught even five years ago is not excellence; it's mediocrity. There is just too much new information coming forward every day. We have a serious responsibility to keep on learning.

This is the special time of year when the focus is on giving. The spirit of the season revolves around giving to others: family members, charities, co-workers, friends, and others less fortunate than ourselves. Some people go nuts trying to select the perfect gift or attempting to attend every holiday function. Others go broke purchasing gifts that may never be used.

While it is certainly important to share our good fortune and enjoy all of the festivities, are many of us forgetting someone very important to the very meaning of our existence on this planet? The forgotten one is you.

Hygienists are, by nature, nurturers. If we were not good at supporting others or didn't feel comfortable with people, we'd never be able to survive this profession. Some of us are caretakers and assume the responsibility for everything that happens. Others assume the role of caregiver, which is much less emotionally taxing. Regardless of how you operate, it takes a lot of emotional and physical effort to practice dental hygiene.

Now, back to the forgotten one. What have you done for yourself lately? This is really serious. Do you forget to take time for yourself? Are the needs of others always so important that you cannot bear to take an hour of private time or spend a few dollars on something totally frivolous or something that you deem necessary, regardless of what others think?

It doesn't make any difference what you want to give yourself. It could be a walk in the park, a night at the theater, a nap on Sunday afternoon, a massage, or an hour of reading. You could even give yourself a package deal like a trip to a special place where you are totally pampered for a few hours or even a whole weekend. Some of you might give yourself a pair of loupes, an ergonomic chair, or perhaps a new slow-speed handpiece. If you want to keep your special gift a secret and savor the enjoyment all to yourself, go ahead. Or you may want to share your gift with others. It doesn't matter what you do or what the gift is as long as you give yourself something!

Suddenly, the magic begins. You've recognized your own value and the need to nurture yourself. Your inner glow will be evident to everyone around. Your spirit will be refreshed. Now, you can go back to the world ready to interact with the wonderful people in your life and practice dental hygiene in your special comfort zone.

So, I'm wishing each one of you a peaceful, relaxing, and restful holiday season ... and pardon me while I go wrap my gift to myself.

Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH, is an international speaker, has published numerous articles, and authored several textbook chapters. Her popular programs include ergonomics, patient comfort, burnout, and advanced diagnostics and therapeutics. Recipient of the 2004 Mentor of the Year Award, Anne is an ADHA member and has practiced clinical dental hygiene in Houston, Texas, since 1971. You can reach her at [email protected] or (713) 974-4540 and her Web site is