It was October 2020, and somehow, I had made it through hygiene school during the pandemic and had just become a licensed dental hygienist. Navigating my new career was scary and lonely. It was hard to find the guidance and support I needed. But within a year of working as a hygienist, I learned four valuable tips that have helped shape my career. I share them so they can be the driving force for you to become a well-rounded dental hygienist.
Be sure to network
The word networking may be intimidating to new grads. We picture going out into the world and saying, “Hi!” to every person we pass, then frantically scrambling for things to talk about. But it truly isn’t the daunting experience we imagine. It can be as simple as joining a Facebook group and starting a conversation with someone in a post. Networking can be joining an organization, attending a meet-up, or attending a webinar. It can be fun, exciting, and transformative.
The power of networking allows for connection and interaction. Without it, we’re left on our own during a crucial time in our career. Building your network early will increase your professional growth and job satisfaction. You can join several Facebook groups that are tailored to dental hygienists, follow dental hygienists who share valuable information on Instagram, and attend a dental conference in your area.
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Take continuing education classes
Graduating dental hygiene school is a major accomplishment. It’s hard to describe how much personal and educational growth we obtain during those years. After such a triumph the thought of continuing education can be unbearable. However, one of the realities I learned is that the moment we graduate, our education has truly only just begun.
Optimizing CE will allow you to stay up to date with current research and innovations. Taking courses that truly interest you helps prevent burnout. Many resources provide free high-quality CE. Be sure to sign up for newsletters and magazine subscriptions and follow companies on social media. CE was not created as a burden or inconvenience. Take advantage of it and use it to move your career forward. Remain teachable and eager to learn. Join programs such as Dental Academy of Continuing Education (DACE) and American Academy for Oral Systemic Health (AAOSH).
Mentoring comes in many forms. It isn’t always someone you schedule meetings with or someone who has a formal title. It can be a professor from hygiene school, a colleague, or even a friend or family member. Don’t feel like you have to give someone the formal title of mentor. These relationships can happen organically. Being a new hygienist comes with challenges and obstacles, and a mentor provides you with guidance and support. It’s also a great way to build your network. There are fantastic programs available for hygienists who want mentorship. I highly recommend investing in yourself and your career from the start.
Sharpen your communication skills
Much of what we do is built around communication, personality types, and learning styles. It’s nice to believe the science we learned in school is enough, but it’s truly about how we communicate that science to the rest of the world. When we practice active listening, we can treat our patients more efficiently and increase patient successful outcomes.
Building strong communication skills also applies to the team we work with. Many issues that arise can be better resolved by practicing conflict resolution. Mastering these skills and techniques creates a healthy and tolerable work environment. There are many online assessment tools to help you better understand yourself, your colleagues, and your patients.
Your first year as a hygienist shapes the way you view our profession. You’re widely influenced by who and what you surround yourself with. Build a network of people who inspire and motivate you to reach your fullest potential. Find mentors in all areas of your life, not just your career. Remember the importance of continuing education and take it seriously. Get the most out of your career by remaining teachable and building strong communication skills.
In just two years I’ve used these tips to advance my career, beat burnout, and become a well-rounded dental hygienist. My hope is that by using these tools you’ll be able to enter the field with confidence. Get ready to make a bold entrance as a new hygienist. We’re ready for you!