The ultimate protection plan

May 1, 2009
People all over the country and throughout the world are focusing on the dramatic economic changes taking place.

by Anne Nugent Guignon, RDH, MPH
[email protected]

People all over the country and throughout the world are focusing on the dramatic economic changes taking place. Uncertainty is chewing away at the peace of mind of otherwise confident souls.

From my perspective, several very positive outcomes are beginning to surface. People are reassessing how they spend or save money. As a result, today's purchases are more seriously scrutinized than ever before. Product value, durability, and reliability become even more important when cash is tight. Every new purchase must deliver more bang for the buck. Durability is a new buzzword, trumping disposability. The throw-away attitude is rapidly going out of fashion.

Over the years, I've met clinicians who consider their dental hygiene position disposable and not worth any investment. If these hygienists didn't like their position, or had a doctor who didn't cater to their every whim, they simply moved on. That approach just won't work today. The number of positions is shrinking, and people are holding on tight to their jobs.

With this new reality, the value of preventing a workplace-related injury becomes even more critical. This is not the time to ignore ergonomics or workplace safety. Can you afford to get injured, or even lose your career as a result of a repetitive stress injury? Unless my crystal ball is broken, most of us count on our clinical income to support our lifestyles and families. Are you ready to be out of work, especially at a time like this? I suspect few people have ample financial backing to weather the current economic storm without some type of employment. With the loss or devaluing of our savings, many hygienists will be working longer hours or more days for years to come to regain financial stability. Voluntary early retirements are a thing of the past.

Okay, enough doom and gloom. Look at what you have on the positive side of your balance sheet. You have an excellent education, skills that can transform lives, and a healthy body ready to provide outstanding dental services to your patients. Staying healthy is a significant key to surviving.

Dental hygiene is a very risky profession. Thousands of hygienists get sidelined every day because of injuries that could have been prevented. This is the perfect time to focus on keeping yourself healthy. Good posture is key, and the foundation is built with tools such as magnification loupes, proper lighting, and chairs that support the body and limit unnecessary stress on the neck, shoulders, back, forearms, and hands.

While it may seem like a stretch, it's time to protect your body with proper equipment that will prevent or reduce musculoskeletal disorders. If you don't have a pair of loupes or a safe chair, I urge you to take the plunge and invest in yourself. Along with helping the economy become healthier, you'll do better work with less mental and physical stress.

Now take it a step further. Look for a reliable American company that manufactures stateside and uses component parts made in this country. Most companies list their manufacturing locations on their Web sites and proudly employ U.S.-based support staff and representatives. I've visited many of them, and they are full of people focused on making quality products.

Some of you may think the timing of this discussion is nuts, but I lived through a very scary time two decades ago and survived against all odds, both physically and mentally. I found myself suddenly single, with a mountain of divorce debt, an aching body, and no job.

The light at the end of the tunnel was a distant glimmer, but I was determined to survive, so I started temping six days a week, and had no time off for the next five years. Halfway through the ordeal, my body started to rebel. Without any extra cash I bought my first pair of loupes and an ergonomic chair, using the company's payment plan.

Spending that much money was terrifying, but I had to do something. I've never looked back. It was the best money that I've ever spent, and it laid the foundation for my new comfort zone. American philosopher Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Always do what you are afraid to do.” I couldn't agree more.