Last summer, I was pecking at the keyboard with one finger during a time when I corresponded with Datevig several times about an article she wanted to write. We published her article in the September 2017 issue. She wanted to write about her first year in the dental hygiene profession. After graduation, she thought she had found her dream office, but she was already searching for her next job after only two months. She was protesting the amount of health-care services expected to be performed in every one-hour appointment. She never indicated any regret about her career choice within the article. She merely encouraged her peers to be more assertive in creating an environment where health care is the chief priority.
We did share the article on Facebook. One reader wrote, “That is why I do not recommend hygiene to my students. No career progression. No benefits. The patients have been forgotten except for their pocketbooks.” I was unable to confirm who the “students” were during an online search. But if the comment came from a hygiene faculty member, that sure seems like a doozy of a thing to say to dental hygiene students.
Datevig said she felt physically ill when she realized her first employer was not a good choice. Another Facebook reader of the article commented, “Exactly! It’s a stressful environment on its own. No job is worth adversely affecting your physical or mental health. You have to take care of yourself. No one else will.”
In all honesty, I have no idea if the dental hygiene profession is below average, average, or above average in comparison with other occupations where workers express regrets about their career choice. But I recently finished going through the salary survey by RDH eVillage, and I believe this: The number of dental hygienists who say they would never recommend the dental hygiene profession to anyone seems to have steadily increased in recent years.
Again, I have no evidence to support this, but I do wonder about the rosy job projections for the dental hygiene profession earlier in the decade. “You don’t even need a bachelor’s degree to make big bucks. Jobs will increase by (pick a three-digit number to insert here, but it has to be three digits. Yes, I’m being sarcastic.) percent within the next few years.” I think some dental hygienists were attracted by the forecasts, paid for the education, and were disappointed by the end result.
I think I have reached a point where I no longer contest a dental hygienist who states, “I have to get out of here! I have to get out of this job right now!” You can’t realistically expect someone who is physically or mentally sick about their career choice to be of service to anyone, including patients. I encourage them to find a job option that will make them want to better the lives of their community, regardless of whether it’s within dentistry or not.
I hope D-a-t-e-v-i-g T-e-g-e-l-e-c-i (I typed slowly, one character at a time) will let us know about her second year in the profession. It would be nice to hear from her on her 10th anniversary as well. I would like to see 2018 be a year where we think long and hard about keeping dental hygienists motivated and excited about their careers.