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Readers’ Forum

May 1, 2005
ADHA supports ‘thoughtful’ efforts to increase public awareness

ADHA supports ‘thoughtful’ efforts to increase public awareness

Dear RDH:

As the 2004-2005 president of the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), I felt compelled to respond to your February 2005 guest commentary column, “A Call from Fire Starters.” ADHA appreciates the interest and enthusiasm of grassroots dental hygienists who are frustrated at the lack of recognition or misrepresentation of the profession in the national media. We certainly understand your concerns.

As the largest national organization representing the professional interests of the more than 120,000 dental hygienists across the country, this is a primary reason for our association considering the possibility of a national branding and image campaign to increase an accurate and positive perception of dental hygienists for the general public. This would also include members of government, industry peers and the news media itself.

ADHA serves as the official representation for the field of dental hygiene in national and regional public relations efforts and among discussions with other associations on combined projects or professional issues. A recent example of our ongoing public relations activities in this role is ADHA’s comprehensive response to the American Dental Association’s dental hygiene practice study and to its coverage of the study in the ADA News. ADHA’s official response to the study has been picked up by a variety of news sources and we have received approving feedback from our members.

Further, ADHA’s proactive communications activities on behalf of the advanced dental hygiene practitioner position have been well received by ADHA’s members and supporters from public health, education and other sectors.

In addition, ADHA consistently works with our constituent associations on state-level issues. Lobby days, local, or statewide National Dental Hygiene Month activities and a host of other public relations activities are often supported by ADHA. We encourage your readers who are ADHA members to consider ADHA as a resource for any of these activities.

While ADHA will continue its efforts on behalf of the profession to increase the positive perception of dental hygiene, we also understand that individual dental hygienists will want to continue their personal efforts. We would like to use this opportunity to help your readers recognize if they are fully prepared for this kind of effort, should they choose to follow up on the call from the Fire Starters. Consider the following questions:

Does this fall under public relations best practices? Is the TV program appropriate? In other words, is it a straight news program, a conflict-oriented news program, or a talk show? Will the motive of the program be to create a conflict? Will it be difficult to maintain the dental hygiene point-of-view? Will the program want to include other interested representatives, and if so, will the dental hygiene perspective be shown on one side of an “argument” with someone else’s shown on the opposing side? Will that person be representing an organization? Are they serving in a leadership capacity? What will the topic be? Do you know what the questions will be? Are you prepared for the various questions that may be asked?

ADHA is proud that our members are educated, informed, politically active, socially aware, and fully committed to the profession of dental hygiene. ADHA supports efforts that ensure the most positive view of our industry and the professionals who serve the public. We also support our members who take a responsible, thoughtful, and strategic step in this direction.

Helena Gallant Tripp, RDH
ADHA President
Chicago, Illinois

Is Illinois leadership counterproductive?

Dear RDH:

As an Illinois dental hygienist, I feel compelled to comment on your ongoing series, “The Journey of Two Women (November 2004-April 2005).” Throughout the series, I must admit I have failed to truly understand why this story is unique. The sequence of events - the various challenges of mentoring and membership - are no different than those experienced by any IDHA leader (or any other state for that matter) who have preceded them. Apathy, recruitment, mentoring, and the challenges of increasing membership are not something new and unqiue to IDHA, but have always been ongoing priorities of each new leader.

Throughout this series, the negative remarks against the dentists/dental society were inflammatory and counterproductive to the relationship that we should be striving for ... and that is the dental team concept with the patients’ needs as the priority. Why is IDHA obsessed with waving the banner of proclaiming hygienists as professionals? Should not our actions proclaim our status? After all, as health care providers we are licensed, maintain current CPR, and are actively updated by continuing education. So why do these two authors find it necessary to make it their mission to validate Illinois hygienists as professionals?

IDHA has a long history of being antagonistic, defensive, and obstinate in the political arena with the Illinois State Dental Society. And it is remarks like those made in this recent part four of your ongoing series that continue to be inflammatory and misleading. Remarks such as:

• “... fear in their eyes about sharing anything about their jobs.”

• “... used to being told what to feel and how to behave.”

• “... truly believed they were not allowed by their dentists to speak to each other about compensation.”

• “... if they talked about salaries it was price fixing.”

• “... blackballed and unable to find employment.”

And the worst of all was:

• “... controlled as if they lived in a house of ill repute.”

What purpose does this serve except to fuel the hostility and give misinformation to hygienists who are not politically savvy. This is the interpretation of those leaders with an agenda; it is not an accurate description of the working hygienist who is not politically inclined, but who truly is dedicated to providing excellent patient care. It is this majority faction of our profession that really represents the ideals and dedication of a hygienist as a co-provider ... a viable part of the dental team. Being a team player is a concept that the political arena of dental hygiene has not been able to grasp; thus, the ongoing battles between dentists and hygienists nationwide continue.

Click here to enlarge image

Nowhere in this article do the authors mention that recently Illinois dental hygienists gained local anesthesia and general supervision in their scope of practice. Instead of remaining in the stagnant mindset of the past, what aren’t IDHA leaders recognizing what the profession has gained and embrace the possibility of future cooperation to continue to enhance the role of hygienists as providers and members of the dental team?

Until hygienists can accept the fact that they are not dentists - they are hygienists with a role that is unique but separate from that of the dentist, yet a critical part of the big picture of patient care - they will continue to struggle searching for their identity!

My views and perspectives have been formed by my years of experience as an active member of IDHA as well as from having been a past president of the association. My understanding of the dental perspective is enhanced by the fact my husband and son are dentists and we employ six hygienists in two office locations. And the fact that I have experienced all of the roles in the dental office (front desk, dental assistant, dental hygienist, and my present position of office manager) have given me a unique advantage to understand the importance of the individual contributions of each member and the impact each has on the team as a whole.

So I am not making my remarks lightly, but rather with the experience of having been an active part of IDHA in the past. I am no longer a member as I am not able to embrace the direction of the association and its leaders who continue to promote adversity between dentists and hygienists rather than trying to find common ground to build on. That is why I feel so strongly about voicing my opinion in opposition to the many negative remarks made in this series; and voicing my support of our dentists and the dental hygienists who promote the concept of the team effort.

Barbara S. Holmes, RDH
Farmer City, Illinois

Waiting for licensure by credentials

Dear RDH:

I am writing to thank hygienists such as Patti DiGangi (February 2005) for their attempts to establish a “national dental hygiene credentialing format.”

After practicing hygiene for 22 years in Illinois (NERBs), I relocated to Georgia (SRBs). I was told by a representative at the Georgia board that “credentialing” had been approved by the Georgia state legislature and that the Board of Dentistry planned to approve it at their January 2005 meeting. Applications would be posted online by February 2, 2005.

The Georgia Board of Dentistry did indeed approve RDH credentialing on January 21, 2004. End of story...right??

Wrong! There was an “error” in the wording of the “application” for RDH credentialing and the error would have to be corrected and “approved” by the board at their “March” 2005 meeting. If approved, the new application would be “posted” and, at the board’s “May” 2005 meeting, they could “consider” it for adoption. The application “may” be online by this summer!

To add insult to injury, I have just been informed that since I have not been employed as a hygienist since October 2004, I do not qualify for credentialing! The board stipulates “two years of continuous employment as a hygienist prior to application.”

If I want to practice hygiene in Georgia, I now have to find a patient who qualifies, drive three hours to the test location and ... take the SRBs! It is ridiculous to have to do this after 22 years of hygiene experience!

I urge you to support national RDH credentialing if it ever becomes a proposed issue! You never know when you’ll have to relocate to a state other than one where your regional boards are accepted!

By the way, in most states, registered nurses can transfer their licenses by endorsement from state to state - online! Hmm, aren’t nurses unionized?

Kathy Kelly, RDH
Alpharetta, Georgia

Online CPR training questioned

Dear RDH:

I would like to submit the following letter to the editor regarding an article published in RDH (December 2004, “Online CPR Certification”). This may be too late of a reply but it is certainly an important concern.

As dental hygiene educators and CPR instructors for close to 30 years and now instructor trainers, we were disappointed by the information presented in the article. The information appeared to be misleading, which raises a great deal of concern on our part. We question the level of skill competence and level of affect on the part of the learner which appears to be devalued by the author’s statements.

For those considering taking a CPR or CPR refresher course, please do not let time and money become an issue. After all, we are talking about a life-and-death matter and taking a hands-on course annually or every other year is a small sacrifice.

I do realize that there are CPR courses provided online by the AHA and American Red Cross. Both organizations offer online didactic portions of the course. However, they recommend that the learner complete the skills portion at a Community Training Center. As for firemen and EMS personnel, they are daily hands-on individuals who are capable of completing both the didactic and skills required for CPR at a virtual level.

As for the person who is considered the lay rescuer or lay responder, it is important to take the time every year or two, as required, to update skills and knowledge of CPR in the presence of a qualified instructor with the use of a manikin.

We are not performing CPR enough to truly retain the information. Keep in mind that the AHA and American Red Cross are the leading authorities in CPR training. Inquire if other companies provide certification and CEUs for the dental professional.

Keep in mind that practicing CPR without a manikin is equivalent to a novice clinician practicing instrumentation without a typodont. Hands-on practice sessions help us develop a sense of touch and awareness of the anatomy necessary for effective CPR to occur.

Qualified CPR instructors are capable of recognizing students who may have a fear of learning CPR or are uncomfortable practicing skills in front of others. It is the instructor who will help this student overcome his or her anxiety.

There are many questions and concerns that arise during a CPR course that instructors are capable of answering. We are there to provide immediate positive feedback. Virtual CPR lacks the human emotion necessary to assist with such issues.

In closing I have to point out that anyone who knows anything about CPR knows that you cannot practice “blowing” into someone you feel comfortable with as stated in this article. That statement alone demonstrates a misinformed author.

Cathie Collier, RDH, BEd ,
CPR Instructor Trainer, AHA
Joyce Turcotte, RDH, MEd,
CPR Instructor Trainer, AHA
Fairfield County, Connecticut

About the Cover

Click here to enlarge image

Laura Ashley Day currently resides in Jackson, Miss. An Atlanta native, her family moved to Pine Bluff, Ark., where her father established a general practice after graduating from dental school at Emory University. Her father, by the way, is Dr. Greg Temple, who appeared on the May 1999 cover of Dental Economics, a sister publication to RDH.

“I often helped out in his office and worked summers during high school. I was much more interested in dental hygiene than dentistry so I entered the University of Arkansas and began taking the classes that I needed to apply for dental hygiene school.”

Upon graduation, Laura worked as a full time hygienist in a very busy general practice. “I really enjoyed developing relationships with my patients and educating them about their oral and overall health. It was so exciting for me to tell them about the latest products and procedures and to witness the before and after results of their treatment.”

Her marriage then led her to Jackson.

“I really wanted this to be an opportunity to find a dental sales job so I sent my resume to several dental supply companies but did not have any responses,” she said. “I moved to Jackson and worked as an assistant while waiting to take the Mississippi board to get my license to practice dental hygiene.”

After two months, Laura landed an interview with the Jackson branch of Patterson Dental Supply.

“I was so excited that I could barely sleep that night! I called the branch manager the next morning, and we set up an interview. I went through a total of four intense interviews with the branch and regional managers before I was offered the job. They told me that there were many qualified candidates but that my dental background in addition to my outgoing personality and motivation made me their number one choice. I was ecstatic about the opportunity.”

After nine weeks of training, she began her career in dental sales.

Laura said, “I was very proud of myself and this only increased my motivation to succeed in this career. This is truly my dream job. I get to use my dental hygiene education to develop relationships and educate dental offices everyday! This is an opportunity of a lifetime for me and I want other hygienists to know that there are other avenues other than clinical that are very rewarding.”

The photographs for RDH were taken at her home in Brandon, a suburb of Jackson, that overlooks the Ross Barnett Reservoir. She and her husband, Greg, share their home with Sadie, a chocolate Labrador retriever. The couple rescued the abandoned dog in August 2004.

“One of the great things about dental hygiene as a career is that there are so many opportunities!” Laura said. “I don’t know of many other professions where you can work as little as one day or as much as five days. You can work at one office or multiple offices. You can work in a general office or a specialty office or both!

“Depending on the state, you can work in other settings such as nursing homes, schools, etc. I know of hygienists who have worked as consultants for dental offices, gone into sales for dental or manufacturer companies, and I even know one who went back to school so that she could teach at a dental hygiene school. I hate to hear about burnout when there are so many opportunities out there.”