Heidi Emmerling, RDH, BS
Elitist. Offensive. Uppity. These labels are an attempt to make hygienists think that we have ventured from our proper "place." As mere clinicians, we evidently have neither the brains, credentials, nor desire to explore and discuss issues that affect our profession. Evidently, these are supposed to be the exclusive domain of politicians with PhDs, MBA executives, and dentists.
What sickens me more than anything else is fluff: patronizing, sticky sweet comments and articles which serve to chastise clinical hygienists for not appreciating our cushy jobs.
Hey, I am fully aware of the warm fuzzies that clinical dental hygiene offers. I find making a difference in patients` health and cultivating friendships are some of the most rewarding aspects of my job - rewards few other jobs can offer. But I also realize that our profession faces challenges. So when I hear comments and read articles - especially by outsiders who have traded their curettes for briefcases, or have fled the operatory for the lecture circuit - telling us to quit whining and be grateful, this warm fuzzy feeling turns to nausea, anger, and concern. We certainly will not have a future if we fail to focus on the issues that face us.
What is our comfort level?
My opinions make me no stranger to criticism. It can sting. Protective friends and colleagues tell me I would attract more flattery, or perhaps less criticism, if I write "softer and gentler," use itty bitty words, use "safer" topics which are less controversial and less high-brow, stuff that even clinical hygienists could grasp.
Excuse me? Did I hear that correctly? Sadly, I did.
I know, I know. If I don`t write what people want, I won`t get published. And when we see the bottom line, what is going to be read, and if my audience doesn`t have the wherewithal to deal with uncomfortable issues or comprehend words with more than one vowel, I have to meet their expectations rather than the other way around. After all, I write for readers, right?
Well, I`m really beginning to feel that these folks are not the people I want as my readers. I will never please everyone. If I write for the lowest common denominator, I lose the intelligent, progressive, forward thinking clinical hygienists I`m proud to call my colleagues.
I`m finally beginning to realize that criticism is a form of flattery. It means we`ve hit upon something worth exploring. This is how we keep our profession vital. We need critical and lively discussion on issues that face us. I hope my words can provide that. At the risk of sounding elitist and uppity, I quote Elbert Hubbard: "To escape criticism, do nothing, say nothing, be nothing."
Do my comments reflect the majority of the readership? Who knows? Who cares? The issues and politics of dental hygiene hold many passionate views and perspectives: managed care, preceptorship, independent practice, local anesthesia, mandatory continuing education, self-regulation, national licensure. The list goes on and on and on. I doubt any single person could claim to hold the majority view on all issues. My concern is that we need to be aware of these issues.
A campfire can be dangerous too
Sure, reading about warm fuzzies might temporarily make us feel good. It lulls us into complacency. And it serves to suppress us. If we all sit around the campfire singing "Don`t Worry, Be Happy," if we stay too busy counting our 2x2`s and our blessings, we will not see the political fires that threaten us.
And we need to see the flames burning in our individual operatories. It is not until wrongful termination, occupational illness or injury, sexual harassment, or burn out catapults us into unemployment that the "bigger" issues come into view.
The purpose of these columns is to provide food for thought, not regurgitate tired, stale words, reinforcing conventional, conservative ways of speaking of issues, pandering to the masses. How dim, ugly, and poisonous to have but a single taste.
Are my comments too high-brow for my colleagues to grasp? I doubt it. But for those who miss my point, I cannot help. Is this any reason not to expose issues to the rest of our colleagues? This is nothing I will be able to correct by being accommodating. If some readers want sticky, sweet fairy tales, OK. But I don`t think that is the case. I think hygienists, yes even fellow clinicians, want and deserve more. I think social and political issues mean something to hygienists. I see my colleagues as intelligent and concerned about the profession. I assume this when I write Perspective each month.
Elitist, offensive, and uppity. Well, I`m more than happy to be called these names, especially in view of the fact that many critics now acknowledge that reading and writing are becoming elitist activities, implementing controversial viewpoints can be offensive, and practicing as an intelligent, well-informed clinical professional is considered by some as being uppity.
With so many challenges and opportunities facing dental hygiene, this is no time to be picking and choosing who`s right and who`s wrong based on individual styles and perspectives. We can`t afford to lose our clinical perspectives on crucial issues by listening to condescending outsiders. Nor can we afford to be hibernating in our individual operatories, bickering and arguing about what is and what is not appropriate to discuss, polarizing ourselves, and eventually settling for malignant fluff.
Keep in mind that when they silence an elitist, offensive, uppity clinician, guess who`s next.
Michael Seidman, an editor for Writer`s Digest books, reminds us, "The choice is simple, for writers and readers. You can opt for empty calorie, cotton candy fluff, or for something that will make a difference. Just remember: you can always have a cavity filled; what are you going to do for a hole in your mind?"
Heidi Emmerling, RDH, BS, is a consulting editor for RDH, a writer, speaker, and clinician from Sparks, Nevada. Her e-mail address is [email protected]