If you think ADHA's Strategic Plan is a document that lies dormant on a shelf for a handful of people to use (or if you don't think about it at all), it's time to take a fresh look.
The American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) has a strategic plan for guiding its efforts to help dental hygienists. The plan is reviewed annually and revised every three years, as needed, to ensure that it meets the needs of the dental hygiene profession and takes into account the overall health-care environment in which dental hygienists can play a larger role..
During this year's review and revision of the plan, the ADHA board of trustees authorized strategic changes aimed to better emphasize putting individual dental hygienists first-no matter which employment setting-at all stages of their professional lives. The plan's core ideology is to unite, empower, and support the dental hygiene profession.
"As we regularly assess member and prospective member feedback from a variety of sources like our surveys, leadership reports, and social media, we have noticed a trend that is common among many associations today, wherein associations need to demonstrate their relevance for members," said ADHA President Betty Kabel, RDH, BS. "With all the changes occurring in dental hygiene, some dental hygienists feel disconnected from ADHA, and don't see themselves in our strategic plan.
"We believed strongly that we needed to address this observation now. And what better way to reconnect than highlighting the individual dental hygienist front and center in our strategy?"
The ADHA said that past ADHA strategic plans were "crafted to support advancement of the profession."
"The difference now is focus," Kabel said. "The new plan is designed so that all dental hygienists can more clearly see themselves in it."
Several years ago, ADHA rolled out a branding campaign that promised to "develop, empower, and support you." The association said its new strategic plan "breathes new life into this ongoing promise" and adds the concept of unity to ensure that the work of the association supports commitment to each level of its three-part structure: the local component organizations, the state constituents, and the national organization.
"The new plan builds off the momentum achieved by the plans before it, but it's shorter, tighter and more focused," Kabel said. "We hope it's more relatable and relevant."
"In this rapidly changing world, we can't continue to do business the way we've always been doing," ADHA President-elect Tammy Filipiak, RDH, MS, agreed. "If we focus in on members and the state associations in new and different ways, we believe great opportunities await."
The plan's first goal is support for dental hygienists throughout their professional lives "every step along the way."
"This means providing you with resources that will help you succeed in the right career path for you as a dental hygienist," Kabel said.
The second goal focuses on strengthening association infrastructure, and the relationships between local, state, and national.
"What we were hearing, and what our own research told us, is that this unity piece needed to be stronger and clearer," Kabel said. "One of the ways we will be addressing that is through our commitment to supporting our state and local organizations and making sure that we develop leaders at every level of the association."
The ADHA said that, in addition to its commitment to leadership development, it is also taking a "contemporary look at our governance structure," re-envisioning how all dental hygienists can become more involved in ADHA by minimizing bureaucracy and creating more opportunities for individuals to participate, whether that's a high level of involvement or in smaller ways.
The third goal is to advocate for the dental hygiene profession. This includes working at the state and federal levels to advance direct access and promote the professional roles of dental hygienists. It also means supporting advancement of the profession through advancement of its educational programs. In this way, both current and future students will benefit, no matter the professional role or roles they choose to pursue: the new Strategic Plan is designed to reflect them all, as well as dental hygienists at all stages of their careers.
"We know the health-care environment is changing," Kabel said. "This plan is made to be flexible so that ADHA supports you today but also prepares you for the future as practice settings and scope evolve."
Developing resources aimed at advancement is part of this third goal, and the ADHA said "so is making sure that you can find them and use them."
"We know we need to do a better job communicating the resources we've developed to support our members," Kabel said. "We're committed to making sure that you know where to go to get those resources that are already developed. And, of course, to developing new ones that support the plan. It's an ongoing process."
"From the national perspective, I think one of the strengths of this plan is that it gives us three different ways to stay connected," said ADHA Chief Executive Officer Ann Battrell, MSDH. "If you are an individual, practicing dental hygienist, you'll see yourself in the first goal. If you are active in your state association, then you'll see yourself in the second goal as well. And then the third goal is the profession itself, and that includes everybody. Every step toward achieving one goal is going to create opportunities to move the needle on the other two.
"Associations need to evolve to stay relevant, especially when the world in which their members work every day changes significantly,"
Battrell continued. "Our process, in revising this plan, was to start out with guiding principles that got to the heart of the everyday world of our members."
The ADHA board was unanimous for the new plan when it was adopted on Sept. 25. The association said the focus on practical resources "you can use today, no matter where you work, or where you are along your career path" contributes to a strategy that speaks to the question, "What does ADHA do for me?"
ADHA District I Trustee Peter Gangi, RDH, BS, Ed, considered the document from his role as a practitioner as well as a board member. "I love the new strategic plan!" Gangi said. "The board of trustees has listened to the membership, and being a full-time clinical hygienist, this plan has been developed with my practice setting in mind."
Kabel added, "Initiatives associated with our new strategic plan are bridges to keep us connected in a meaningful way. We believe that we are stronger together."
To read the ADHA Strategic Plan in its entirety, visit www.adha.org. This article was prepared by the ADHA Division of Strategic Communications. RDH