The thrill of working

Carol Tekavec`s assertion that managed care is the economic fuel driving preceptorship makes for interesting reading in this issue. We can acknowledge, though, that, when Alabama first launched its preceptorship program, managed care was just a gleam in some entrepreneur`s eye. We also can acknowledge that many hygienists have staked their political futures on managed care, including the primary trade association for the profession. Managed care had little to do with the original debate for prec

Mark Hartley, Editor

Carol Tekavec`s assertion that managed care is the economic fuel driving preceptorship makes for interesting reading in this issue. We can acknowledge, though, that, when Alabama first launched its preceptorship program, managed care was just a gleam in some entrepreneur`s eye. We also can acknowledge that many hygienists have staked their political futures on managed care, including the primary trade association for the profession. Managed care had little to do with the original debate for preceptorship, and, at best, preceptorship was just a contributing factor to organized hygiene`s endorsement of managed care.

But Tekavec is not talking about then. She`s writing about the profession now. In a nutshell, her observation is that the squeeze on dental fees means somebody`s got to earn less. Logic, for the reasons outlined in the article, dictates that it should be the hygienist who absorbs a pay cut. Regardless of your personal philosophy about managed care, the article is thought-provoking.

The opposite of managed care, of course, is fee-for-service dentistry. Everyone`s quick to point out that the flaw here is greed. Let`s admit it, some dental professionals do walk around salivating about how much money they`re going to make, forgetting to even mention "care," as in wanting to render compassionate treatment to another human being. With some of the more vocal proponents for fee-for-service dentistry, I`m reminded of the television commercial for online stock trading. It pointedly asks: If your stock broker is so successful, why is he still working?

However, the characterization of fee-for-service dentistry as being greedy is unfair. It ignores how fun it is.

The thrill of dentistry is what most of these mavericks dwell on when you talk to them. It`s being excited about getting up in the morning and going to work. It`s this glee that`s felt over aiding a patient to perfect dental health - not 5 percent better this year and 10 percent better next year. It`s about spending hours - not minutes - with a patient, doing what you were trained to do. It`s this powerful rush of adrenaline that`s experienced when you deduce your own solutions, a rush that`s absent when you follow bureaucratic formulas. Every one in the dental office is fired up by the prospect of success - both personally and professionally. You are dedicated to finding out if there really is a limit to success.

The challenges posed by fee-for-service dentistry are always present. Guess what? It`s a whole lot better than burnout. It`s fun to face the challenges head on. In fee-for-service practices, employers like people who make good things happen. Staff members contribute to the collective excitement that`s generated by a group of people who enjoy what they do.

If greed kicks in and the employer gets a little too stingy, get out of there! It should be apparent that the practice has lost its focus from the original intent of fee-for-service dentistry, as well as the ability to enjoy the thrill of working.

In conclusion, RDH magazine is fortunate this year to be included in a program sponsored by PennWell Corp. and Dental Economics magazine. The Cosmetic Dentistry 2000 program in Las Vegas on Feb. 4-5 encourages participation from offices desiring a creative twist on how dental services are provided. Although a comprehensive list of seminars dominates the agenda, what`s really encouraged is networking with other hygienists, dentists, and staff members.

PennWell also developed a specific part of the program for hygienists. Trisha O`Hehir, the RDH columnist on Periodontics, is part of the program, and she will be joined by Dru Halverson, RDH, and Beverly Maguire, RDH. If you`d like more information, turn to the advertisement on pages 70-71 or call (888) 299-8062.

Editor Mark Hartley can be contacted at markh@pennwell.com

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