Are You a Prima Donna: How do dental hygienists shed the stereotype?

Jan. 16, 2015
Nobody wants to be known as a prima donna hygienist. You know the type: smug, condescending, and generally thinks they are better than everybody else in the office.

Nobody wants to be known as a prima donna hygienist. You know the type: smug, condescending, and generally thinks they are better than everybody else in the office. This type of person is easy to spot when it isn’t you, but could you actually be the person that everybody else thinks is a prima donna? You may be exhibiting some of the traits and behaviors of a prima donna hygienist without even realizing it.

Keeping a dental office running smooth and efficient takes a lot of hard work from everyone involved. From the administrative staff to the dentist, and everybody in between, there are important jobs that need to be done to keep things running. Everybody has an important role, which is actually what can make things tricky.


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As hygienists, we are trained in a very specific skill set, and it can be very easy to think that anything outside that skill set is outside the scope of the work we should be doing. Unfortunately, there are many people who think this way. Only performing the duties that only a dental hygienist can perform is how somebody gets labeled as a prima donna hygienist.

So how do you know if you might be perceived as prima donna hygienist around your office?

Since nobody will probably admit it directly to you, it’s important to look at yourself and how you view your work and job duties. Do you not restock because you think somebody else will do it? Do you refuse to do particular tasks because you feel they are “below” you? Do you think you are paid too much to do something that needs to be done around the office? Do you think you can ignore getting something done because an assistant or other hygienist will take care of it for you?

If you answered yes to any of the above questions, there’s a good chance that other people in your office might think of you as a prima donna hygienist. Ultimately, you should try to look at it from colleagues’ perspective. If someone asked your co-workers what it is like to work with you, what would their response be?

Although it might not feel good to be labeled a prima donna hygienist around your office, there are some simple things you can do to change people’s perspectives. First, if you use it, you can stock it. Don’t leave restocking your own supplies to somebody else. This can build resentment among whoever actually ends up restocking your supplies because from their perspective, those are your supplies. If your instruments need to be sterilized or sharpened, then sterilize or sharpen them. If you share your operatory with another hygienist, leave it exactly as you would want it left for you.

The Golden Rule applies heavily here; treat others how you would want to be treated. Have the barriers on, supplies stocked, water full, and all around clean and tidy. The key here is to be self-sufficient around the office. If you are expecting others to do things for you, you may need to take a look at your own actions.

The beauty of making these changes and becoming self-sufficient is people will begin to take notice and respect you for the effort you are making. This respect will transfer into a better atmosphere around the office that will make work more enjoyable for all, including you.
Set a high standard for yourself at the office and lead by example. Even if others don’t follow your lead, take the high road and show that you are a team player who carries your own weight, no matter how others may act around the office.

It cannot be said enough, everyone deserves respect. No position in a dental office is more important than another. Like links in a chain, your team is only as strong as the weakest link. I encourage you to be a strong link in the chain by setting a positive example of teamwork amongst your co-workers.

Kara Vavrosky, RDH, runs the popular Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, and is also the founder of DentalHygieneAnswers.com, a question and answer platform for dental hygienists. Kara serves on the Clinical Advisory Board of GoodMouth, a toothbrush subscription service, and the Advisory Board of Support Clean Dentistry, an initiative to raise awareness of cleanliness in the dental office. Kara currently works for a one-doctor, family-oriented practice in Portland, Oregon.