Bring yourself back to school: The energy is contagious, so revive your dental hygiene career too

Sept. 28, 2015
It is September, that time of year when students are returning to school.


It is September, that time of year when students are returning to school. Everything starts fresh: new backpacks, pencils, erasers, folders, glue sticks, crayons, highlighters, construction paper, loose-leaf paper, and paint. There is energy in the air.

Remember when you prepared to enter dental hygiene school and were excited about the possibilities ahead? You were getting a kit filled with instruments and had to try to figure out which were curettes, which were explorers, and which were probes. There were books for each class, and an overwhelming amount of material to learn with a new vocabulary of terms for each course. Now, it is September, and where is the newness, the excitement, the unknown, the possibilities that lie ahead?

If you find yourself facing another day of practice, the fall semester, or your work setting, and not really all that enamored, let this month be the time when you challenge yourself to mentally be back in school again. What can you learn?


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If it has been a while since you learned about new instruments, let this be the time that you explore new curettes or ultrasonic inserts. Perhaps it has been some time since you learned about new diagnostic devices for oral cancer or caries detection. Sign up for a CE course or invite a product representative to a staff meeting for a lunch-and-learn session. Resolve to try a new device and ask your patients for their input, too, not just the staff. Give yourself a 30-day trial period to determine if this device has added value for the practice/educational environment.

Next, find out what the current students are reading and treat yourself to some of the same. Scan some of the texts from Elsevier, Mosby, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Pearson, and Jones & Bartlett. Download a copy of a book on oral pathology, oral medicine, periodontology, or special needs on your e-reader, and read a chapter each night to give yourself a refresher. In one month you might have a new perspective on clinical topics.

If you find yourself getting bored with the same dental hygiene-related magazines and journals, visit a college or university library and look up issues of a journal you would normally never read. Journal of Clinical Periodontology, Implant Dentistry, Journal of Dental Research, Oral Surgery, Oral Medicine, Oral Pathology, Oral Radiology, Journal of the American Medical Association, The New England Journal of Medicine, International Journal of Nursing, and Journal of Allied Health are just a few of the hundreds that are available to you. Select one journal, scan every issue of 2014 and 2015, and read one article for every month. Immerse yourself in what you are reading, take notes, and think about how those articles apply to your professional practice environment.

Lastly, think about your patient population and the languages they speak. If some of your patients speak a foreign language, take some time this month and learn some phrases in that language: "Good morning," "How are you feeling today?" "What medicines are you taking?" "Show me how you brush your teeth," "I am going to examine your mouth," "Have a nice day!"

These ideas are just examples of how you can return to school for a short period of time and embrace the spirit of learning that students experience when September rolls around each year. This month can be an opportunity to ignite your passion for education. We are never too old to learn, to explore, to research, to grow. Keep learning! RDH

JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PhD, is president of Gurenlian & Associates, and provides consulting services and continuing education programs to health-care providers. She is a professor and dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and president of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.