By Janet Hagerman
Freshly returned from the American Academy of Cosmetic Dentistry (AACD) convention in Orlando, Fla., I am once again pumped up about my chosen career. I discovered new products and equipment, learned a lot at the continuing education (CE) courses I attended, and made new friends and professional acquaintances. Our own RDH columnist, Kristine Hodsdon, presided over four presentations! I was delighted to see the quantity and quality of hygiene courses available.
All right, I admit it. I am a CE junkie. I simply love continuing education of any kind. I am always amazed at how much more there is to learn in the world about pretty much anything, but especially dentistry, and particularly in this age of ever-advancing technology.
Not everyone loves CE the way I do, however. I'm always shocked when I hear some staff members complain about "having to attend" CE, or tolerating a course until the very moment of escape after CE credits are announced.
This aversion to expanding your knowledge is a direct contributor to career burnout. Conversely, staying on the cutting edge of your profession keeps you fresh, continually expanding and enhancing your patient services and increasing your value as a professional health-care provider, and as an employee. It also keeps life interesting, and interesting is a sure antidote to burnout.
On the other hand, convention-going can sometimes be overwhelming and intimidating, tiring and confusing. Here are answers to these challenges, and tips to make the most from your conference.
The challenges are:
• We learn all these great ideas but they never get implemented.
• I get overloaded with products but miss what I came for.
• There's not enough time to see all of the exhibits.
Success strategies for convention-going
o Plan ahead — Have a staff meeting to determine your office outcomes for the meeting. Study the meeting course schedule beforehand. Decide what courses you want to attend and assign different team members to each one. That way you can all spread out to gather more information and share with each other later.
Make a list of vendors you want to visit and products and services you want to investigate. Decide on a budget for items you need that may feature discounted pricing at the exhibit booth. Create a "Promise and Source" list with each team member accountable for researching different items or outcomes
o Organize your time — Study the exhibitor list and floor plan. Decide, ahead of time, your best approach to cover the vendors you need to see. Visit them all first. Then go back and walk the floor for fun. Be open to new exhibits, products, and ideas.
o Diversify your course selection — Take clinical courses as well as business and communication courses. Plus, just for fun, take something different and "off the wall" (such as veterinary dentistry!)
o Mingle — Leave your team to take different courses. Walk the exhibits alone to make new friends. If you do attend courses with your team, don't sit with them. Mingle and meet new people. You will learn so much more, increase your professional network, and make new friends. Don't forget to exchange business cards.
o Take care of yourself — Give yourself enough time, considering arrival and departure, to take full advantage of the conference, so you are not rushed and stressed. Wear comfortable shoes, especially on the exhibit floor. Exhibit floors are concrete, which are very hard on your feet and back. Have fun, but not too much fun! Get enough rest to be fresh and attentive for the following day.
o Follow-up meeting — Conduct a follow-up staff meeting. Have each staff member present a brief review of the course they attended. Review products and decide what to order. Review your "Promise and Source" list to implement your original convention outcomes. Email and stay in touch with your new friends.
Now, let me use the above strategies to share with you what I learned at the 2003 Orlando AACD. As a coach for Hygiene Mastery I was an exhibitor, so I had an excellent opportunity to familiarize myself with the exhibit floor. But, I also wanted to check out some specific courses. I developed my course and vendor list.
Kristine Hodsdon was my choice for clinical hygiene. As always, she provides cutting edge information about new products and how to use them. She is also an excellent source for learning how to determine clinical considerations for cosmetic dentistry.
My choice for "eccentric fun" course was the opening speaker, Michael Weber, a Hollywood special effects creator. Here are some of his problem-solving key points:
• Think the unthinkable; what we would never do.
• Dental application: a great example is dental advertising, which was unthinkable a few years ago. Now it is unthinkable not to advertise.
• How would you have solved this 10, 15, or 2000 years ago?
• Dental application: Think about the great results some patients get with toothpicks instead of floss.
• Create artificial emotional distance.
• Dental application: Think about how we sometimes mistakenly diagnose the patient's wallet instead of sticking with comprehensive care. Hard as this may seem for us social hygienists, distancing ourselves emotionally could actually help us take better care of our patients' health.
• People want growth, but don't like change!
• True in any profession.
On to the free samples! There were two products in particular I wanted to research — intraoral cameras and loupes (magnification glasses).
• Digital Doc (www.digi-doc.com) has my vote for compact portability. I also appreciated founder David Wilson's approach to educating dentistry, and dental hygienists in particular, about technology.
• Zeiss loupes (www.zeiss.com/loupes) seem to work the best for me, although this is a highly subjective and personal choice.
Walking the floor for fun I discovered two great booths.
• BIOLASE Technology, Inc. (www.biolase.com). Dr. Chris Owens, the clinical director is a veritable walking encyclopedia of information about laser technology. I especially was interested in utilizing the laser for periodontal debridement and decontamination in states where hygienists can perform this service. If your state is not one of them, get involved and work to make this happen. This is such a huge patient benefit to periodontal healing, an excellent income center, and a natural for the hygiene department.
• DetecTar (www.ultradent.com). For hygienists, this is the greatest thing since sliced bread. It is a calculus detector! The handpiece works like an explorer/probe (it actually has probe markings on the tip) that detects subgingival calculus. As of the AACD meeting, it had been approved in Canada and Europe, and was expected to be available in the United States soon.
With courses and technologies like these, proper planning and follow-through, it's impossible not to get excited. Boring CE becomes CE breakthrough. John Wooden, the former UCLA head basketball coach, said, "It's what you learn after you know it all that really counts." Make continuing education a habit as you continue to learn, change, and grow.
Janet Hagerman, RDH, BS, is a speaker, author, and coach for Hygiene Mastery. For a complimentary assessment of your hygiene department potential, call (888) 347-4785 or email [email protected].