So, how much do you earn?

After lunch, the boys gather on the parking lot outside the school cafeteria. They compare hourly wages offered for bagging groceries, cooking pizzas, mowing lawns, etc. The amount of sweat generated per dollar earned is a serious matter. The correct calculation translates into maximum personal energy for goofing off. The other group of guys on the parking lot drive nicer cars, affordable by working as an errand boy in Uncle Joe`s office. Since the office is air-conditioned, they seem to have en

Mark Hartley

Editor

markh@pennwell.com

After lunch, the boys gather on the parking lot outside the school cafeteria. They compare hourly wages offered for bagging groceries, cooking pizzas, mowing lawns, etc. The amount of sweat generated per dollar earned is a serious matter. The correct calculation translates into maximum personal energy for goofing off. The other group of guys on the parking lot drive nicer cars, affordable by working as an errand boy in Uncle Joe`s office. Since the office is air-conditioned, they seem to have enough personal energy to date every schoolgirl and coed between the two coastlines - if only there were enough days in the week.

Dental hygiene has a couple of clusters on the parking lot too. One group includes the working Moms, happily married and always volunteering for programs at the kids` school. The work schedule is flexible enough to accommodate such community involvement. Why? The doctor is genuinely a nice guy. He`s married too - brings his contentment with life to the office, where it spreads like a soft perfume. One of the pleasures of life is to share a cup of coffee with the doctor and other staff members before the first patient arrives. No one here is pushing the envelope, weaving along the cutting edge, leading a charge into 21st Century dentistry. The patients, though, don`t seem to be complaining.

The other group of hygienists includes the single Moms. They volunteer for school programs too, but it`s more because the school expects it. It`s a stretch, though. The income is too critical and, besides, the doctor`s perpetual frown seems to deepen whenever anything varies from his schedule, his vision, his demands, his needs. Your salary translates into xyz amount of production, which will allow him to retire early and finally find happiness (you`re skeptical he`ll ever find it). Everyone hurries all the time, but, hey, it`s a competitive world. The competitiveness puts you on the cutting edge whether you want to be there or not. Thirty minutes in, thirty minutes out. The Marines are looking for a few good women with the hand/eye coordination and speed of hygienists. Is it time to bail out of this no-rewards pressure cooker called dentistry? Prima donna is a buzzword in the profession now. According to the dictionary, prima donna is another name for you. The staff may not say it to your face, but it`s pretty obvious they would if the last vestiges of human courtesies were to disappear. Tomorrow just might be the day when that thinly veiled tension catches fire.

Unlike the two groups of boys on the parking lot, these two groups of hygienists really do need each other. The pavement separating them needs to buckle and toss them together like a bad earthquake movie. Many things could be on the agenda, but why not start at the bottom line? Salaries. Money keeps you coming back whether you embrace or dread the office environment. It doesn`t matter if your heart keeps humming, "...keeps me satisfied," or if you`re beginning to think that "professional" really means, "a little girl who will never want to change anything."

Talk about the money first. Fill out the RDH salary and benefits survey on page 33. Let`s find out how good and bad it really is. By comparing notes on compensation, perhaps we`ll discover other areas of common ground. Let`s show the boys on the parking lot how to really talk money.

So how much money do you make?

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