Please understand that Nathe and Posler are very somber and serious in their presentation of the facts. But they might as well have been Seinfeld and Reiser. I was laughing too hard at the irony.
Mark Hartley, Editor
California`s "independence" was, yes, inspirational. You can`t listen to someone such as Judy Boothby and not feel anything. Boothby is a California hygienist who persistently chased independent practice - not for financial gain or to disrupt dentistry`s magic formulas on how consumers are best served. She just wanted to ensure that nursing home or homebound patients had access to care. Unfortunately, Boothby has had to make a career out of trying to do this simple thing. If dentists cannot ensure access for economic reasons, then at least allow willing hygienists to lay a foundation. After two decades of some rather bitter entanglements, California hygienists can now provide this care, if they qualify as RDHAPs (see the May issue of RDH).
I`m happy for Boothby and the handful of her peers who have walked a long and courageous road to get there. I really am. I`ve also been a little depressed about it. There are still too many restrictions, in my mind, for any real jubilation. In order to light a fire in the eyes of a lonely, scared grandmother in a nursing home, California hygienists still have to jump through too many hoops. Why is that? We ought to be begging hygienists to render care to patients who are financially unable to purchase a dentist`s elective services. The grandmother doesn`t want bleached teeth or a new set of crowns. She just wants a provider who`s there for her.
Regardless of my sadness about this, we published the article in RDH simply because it was an important accomplishment for the profession.
Then Christine Nathe called me. She had read the article and thought I might like to know about what happened in New Mexico in April. She was so low-key about it that, at first, I thought she was joking. I then invited her to write the article that appears in this issue. While very informative, the article admittedly remains an understatement about one of the best things that`s happened to dental hygiene in a long time.
I`m waiting for someone to let out a whoop! Come on, at least give me a squeal of delight. If not that, go into the privacy of your closet and high-five the pair of shoes you keep on the top shelf.
OK. So you`re not going to do it. So I will:
"All right! Awesome! Way to go, people!"
New Mexico`s collaborative practice is something to be jubilant about. But hygienists who survive the political arena develop a certain austerity, I suppose. It`s important to keep the game face on in public places - show the world that you`re a professional who is mature, devoted, responsible, dedicated, etc.
Not me. I`m just a crazy editor. Let`s read between the lines of the article by Nathe and Barbara Posler. How shall we start this lovely little celebratory dance?
Oh, why don`t we first observe that New Mexico dentists wanted to open up some more schools to train dental hygienists. Apparently, the line pitched to the politicians was: "Senator, there`s a shortage of hygienists in this state! The ones we do have make too much money, driving me into bankruptcy. We gotta do something! We need to open up some more community colleges!" So someone did a study. Guess what? It was discovered that, in fact, there`s a shortage of dentists. From there, it escalated into this nightmare that, since there`s not enough dentists to provide care, hygienists can help fill the gaps. And, since there`s not enough dentists to supervise these hygienists, the hygienists should be unrestricted as they provide care.
Please understand that Nathe and Posler are very somber and serious in their presentation of the above facts. But they might as well have been Seinfeld and Reiser. I was laughing too hard at the irony.
Then there`s the irony of the term, "collaborative practice." Maybe it`s just me. But, if my sixth grade English teacher had snapped out, "Mark, quit picking your nose! What`s an antonym for independent practice?"
"Uh, collaborative practice, Mrs. Rogers?"
It`s all very nice. You should see this silly grin on my face.
Editor Mark Hartley can be contacted at [email protected]