With a twist

April 1, 2007
Can you imagine a continuing education program on infection control that’s actually funny? That’s right.

by Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS

Can you imagine a continuing education program on infection control that’s actually funny? That’s right. Infection control, with all the barriers, PPE’s, and other alphabet soups, actually enjoyable? Noel Kelsch, RDH, makes a required and often boring continuing education program enlightening and entertaining in “Infection Control with a Twist.” Noel uses humor, multi-media, and cutting-edge information to empower her audiences to make their jobs easier. She focuses on teamwork and finding solutions to a variety of infection control issues. All of Noel’s programs meet or exceed the requirements of both OSHA and CDC for continuing education courses on infection control.

“Infection Control with a Twist” is a hands-on course that benefits all dental team members. Participants are encouraged to come as office teams to learn practical ways to follow OSHA and CDC guidelines. Although often boring, these guidelines are what make a working environment safe, and they can be learned while enjoying a good laugh, yet learning important safety information to change the working environment and develop a greater sense of team.

Noel began her program after she attended an infection control course with a lot of information missing. The continuing education speaker actually told participants, “Let’s just get this over with.” The course was so bad that several people fell asleep! Noel was very upset with the program and its implications to both her and her patients, and that no one seemed to care about its importance.

So she learned all she could about infection control, and with her love of humor, developed her own program. No one has fallen asleep on her yet! She incorporates PowerPoint lecture material, hands-on portions, discussions, videos and photos, comics, and even a fashion show! There are several surprises that enlighten audiences about their infection control behaviors. Her handout incorporates resources and answers to common questions regarding infection control issues. It also contains information on practical ways for dental offices to comply with OSHA and CDC guidelines.

In addition to her infection control program, Noel offers programs on serving the underserved population, meth mouth and the dental professional, and becoming a change agent by using creative thinking. Throughout her programs, she inspires participants to make positive changes in their lives as they laugh and learn. She believes that great learning experiences touch the heart as well as the mind. She uses excitement, anger, happiness and other emotions to capture attention and tap into participants’ ability to make positive changes.

Humor helps build relationships, whether with patients or participants, by exposing the foibles of the human condition. However, humor must be appropriate and presented in a way that does not detract from the message. Noel, who is also a cartoonist, has done extensive research on the role of humor in learning and has found it to be an effective teaching tool. Also, she incorporates a story from her own experience two years ago when she was in the hospital unconscious for 10 days. She tells audiences that when she finally regained consciousness, she immediately started to laugh. She laughed because life is so funny and way, way too short not to laugh. She now finds time every day to simply laugh.

Noel’s research has revealed that a good sense of humor releases stress, thereby increasing the immune system. Her love of humor and fun is evident through her programs and beyond.

Noel had the opportunity to display her humor during one program incident. A male dancer dressed in a full tux came into the meeting room and told her his dance was a surprise for her birthday. It really was a surprise since it was July and Noel’s birthday is in December. Despite her protests, the dancer insisted the dance was for her from her friends.

She finally decided to let him do what he needed to do ... who was she to stop someone from earning a living? When the dance was just about over, someone came into the room to tell the dancer he was in the wrong room! As you can imagine, both the audience and Noel laughed hysterically, and she received awesome evaluations for that course!

Noel is a graduate of Cabrillo College in Aptos, Calif., and now attends Northern Arizona University (NAU) degree completion program. She is a proud member of ADHA and believes she would not be successfully doing what she is doing if it weren’t for ADHA. An avid cartoonist, many of her artworks appear in RDH and other publications. Noel hopes to make a difference in the world and believes that if everyone did one small thing each day to make a difference for someone, it would be a much better world.

Laughter fills us with positive feelings to share with others. Some people are too tired or hurt to smile. Noel believes that people should share a smile with those who are hurt, since no one needs a smile more than someone who has no smiles to give. She has done this for so many and it has returned to her a hundredfold.

For more information on Noel and her corporate-sponsored continuing education programs or her cartoons, contact [email protected]

After spending more than 25 years in private practice, Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS, FAADH, is currently a faculty member at Mt. Ida College’s dental hygiene program. She is a Fellow in the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and is also pursuing a master’s degree in education in instructional design. Ann-Marie has written numerous articles and provides continuing education programs for dental hygienists and dental team members. She can be reached at [email protected].