Fun, food ... and learning?

March 1, 2000
Two Florida hygienists team up to make continuing education a nourishing experience for the soul. So light a candle and breathe deeply. It`s time for a lesson.

Two Florida hygienists team up to make continuing education a nourishing experience for the soul. So light a candle and breathe deeply. It`s time for a lesson.

Jane Weiner, RDH

After my "35th" college reunion at the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, I came away from that wonderful day with an interesting outlook on the profession. There were hygienists at this reunion from the year 1927, and they mingled with potential Y2K grads. You see, my friends, besides our training to nurture and care for patients` health, we also are fortunate in that our educational background takes us to new and fascinating heights. Many of the licensed dental hygienists in the room were also involved in other aspects of the dental field and/or other fields as well.

Some of the professionals I chatted with are in the dental field as manufacturer`s reps. Some are speakers on topics such as implantology and the challenges facing dental hygiene and dentistry. Some are involved in presenting and manning booths at trade shows. Others are in the field of cosmetology and are estheticians, as well as still keeping involved in dental hygiene. Others write for journals and magazines or teach in dental hygiene and/or dental schools.

We are a most diversified group of ladies and gentlemen. I walked away from the reunion so proud of each and every one of us. I thought about just how broad a field dental hygiene is and where it can take a person if one so desires.

One thing that I did discuss with many of the people there was how they each acquired their continuing education credits. Many states require that a person must attend courses in person in order to obtain the necessary credits for their relicensure. This discussion brought to mind a unique type of continuing education that two exceptional hygienists in Florida have brought to the forefront.

The two hygienists met and brainstormed over a lunch about a year ago. They came from very separate and different hygiene careers and managed to blend them together. They formed a new and innovative study group for dental professionals to earn CEUs in a fun, dynamic, and very unique atmosphere.

Jill Obrochta was introduced to Juli Kagan by a colleague. Obrochta was a guest lecturer at the dental hygiene school where Kagan taught. Once they realized that their philosophies meshed, transcenDENTAL was born. They realized that Kagan`s background was strong in education and Obrochta`s strengths were in case presentation and chairside communication. They also recognized that they were both very similar in their approach to patient care and comprehensive treatment planning.

Both had the same enthusiasm and concerns about the field of dental hygiene, and each felt the need for a different type of continuing education forum. The forum, they decided, would focus on "self" and "getting back to basics." The forum would erase all of the stress, backaches, and time crunches that a day at the office loads upon many of us.

The two women offer hygienists and other dental professionals the opportunity to choose a less stressful lifestyle and to choose the content of the future study group sessions. Although many view "focusing on self" with skepticism, Obrochta and Kagan view it as a positive aspect in one`s personality. After all, if people have a positive self-image, then they can be more effective in patient motivation, with co-workers` concerns, and, of course, with themselves in maintaining a positive attitude and keeping those endorphins and seratonin levels up.

It is a unique and fascinating story, as well as an innovative way for anyone to earn CEUs and have fun while doing so.

The birth of transcenDENTAL was a happening. At this brainstorming session, Kagan and Obrochta decided on a philosophy that dental professionals should be able to obtain CEUs while having fun and food in a relaxing atmosphere. Their goal is for us to be able to bring back to the workplace many of the fundamentals that are learned at these courses.

Kagan states that they both "read a lot of modern day motivational text." She says that they never want to copy another person`s ideals. Rather, they study, ponder, and get excited about new concepts, and then try to make them workable for their peers and patients. The name, transcenDENTAL is a creative and different type of name for a CE provider. They chose a name that would represent what their intentions were:

• Continuing education that is only new, fresh, and original.

• A format that is different in its approach and subject matter.

In order to stay abreast and fresh, Obrochta and Kagan strive to host the meetings at pleasant and unique locations, such as an art gallery, an Italian restaurant, or even at a beach house. The locations are where the "self-nurturing" comes into effect. First, they take care of the "self" by making available something of interest and/or nurturing to the individuals, followed by good food and then the courses. The untraditional settings accomplish this for the participants, a stark contrast to the normally mundane meeting rooms to which we have all grown accustomed.

They believe that "everything starts with one`s self. That one has to be happy first with one`s self before one can start to help others. Have you ever met a dental hygienist who doesn`t love life vs. one who does? Which type of personality do you choose to be around?"

What makes this a different concept from the ordinary courses that we all have sat through over the years or taken through the mail is that Obrochta and Kagan feel that the focus on "self" erases the stress that we face on a daily basis in the office setting.

For example, do you ever light a candle at work? Do you ever stop and practice deep breathing at work? Do you ever use the calming effect of lavender oil for yourself or a fearful patient?

Obrochta said that the theory behind the lighting of a candle at work is, "When you stare into the center of a light source, it has a tranquilizing effect. Light helps to guide, relax, and soothe the soul. It has a remarkable effect, especially when it is introduced at such a time as "work!" She said that the therapeutic value is that it "forces you to slow down and smell the roses, to catch your breath and relax, something that people do tend to forget to do."

The practice of deep breathing is one that many of us know all too well, but we forget to implement it at the right times. When one practices this on a regular basis, it does help us face whatever is ahead of us in a more relaxed manner.

As for the use of lavender oil, the ladies say that it is serves as "nature`s Valium." A few drops dabbed under the nose helps to induce a calming aura. An occupational therapist told me that her supervisor carries a handkerchief smelling of lavender oil in her pocket and uses it as needed. Aroma therapy is something different and unique, providing an environment that creates a feeling of relaxation for the patient and the operator. The tension and fears that many times accompany dental work can be alleviated.

These are but a few of the innovative things that Kagan and Obrochta introduce at the CE sessions. The course topics range from guided meditation, decorating, and the benefits of COQ10 vitamin therapy. A meeting will convene at an art museum, for example, or at a beach house, as mentioned above. Kagan and Obrochta want the participants to experience an art exhibit or a walk on the beach before the course. As everyone begins to relax, the participants indulge in the goodies for the stomach and then it is on to the business of a continuing education course.

Kagan and Obrochta ask the dental professionals what they want to learn about in order to develop a better feeling about themselves and their work. They then go out and find the most qualified individual to teach the course that the group wants.

Kagan said, "We are the dental staff members` vehicle. You ask and we map it out for you and drive you on your tour." Obrochta adds, "It is not enough to remold the meaning of health care provider. It starts with a healthy self."

Now staff members who nurture day in and day out can be nurtured in return. They can enjoy a "mental spa" once a month while receiving CEUs in courses that they use in the workplace. They help us explore many topics that restore a "stressed" individual. Participants hopefully obtain a better feeling about themselves, their profession, and their patients.

What started in a small beach house in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., in November 1998 has blossomed into almost a Odream come trueO for these women. The group meets in Ft. Lauderdale once a month. Kagan and Obrochta are available for lectures throughout the United States this year.

Their backgrounds are most impressive. Kagan is a 1981 graduate of the Forsyth School of Dental Hygienists and received her bachelor?s degree at the University of Maryland. She is working on her master?s degree in educational psychology at Florida Atlantic University in Florida.

Obrochta currently is an instructor in the department of dental hygiene at Broward Community College. She is a 1985 graduate of Loyola University. She polished the Obusiness edgeO to her career by working with several highly dynamic dental education companies, lecturing on current trends to other dental professionals. She is still lecturing as well as delivering care in a private practice.

You can contact Kagan at (561) 716 0174 or Obrochta at (954) 989-4585.

Jane Weiner, RDH, graduated from the Forsyth School For Dental Hygienists in 1964. She has presented the National Board reviews and Florida State Board reviews for the last seven years and has tutored for the national boards since 1985.