Keep your professional edge

Nov. 6, 2015
I just finished writing a series of columns that discussed "things they didn't teach me in school."

(And I'm not talking about instrument sharpening)

BY Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD

I just finished writing a series of columns that discussed "things they didn't teach me in school." The series focused on areas in which new hygienists may need some additional training while looking for that first job. If you're a new hygienist, know that the new job will not seem too new after the first several months, and you'll be able to relax in what you had to learn while you were getting started. You will have the insurance coding down well, and you will have enough experience with inventory control and toothache issues to feel more comfortable. Of course, you will continue to learn something new every day. That is one thing that is nice about dentistry; it does continually change and evolve.

Once you have gotten settled in, there is something else to think about: keeping up with what you did learn in school. I know you don't want to go back to the past in your mind and think about how hard your national board examination was, but I do want to take you back to that day for a moment.

You studied so hard to pass the exam, and now, it's something to look back on with pride. You had to answer so many questions, review case studies, and put things together to answer the questions correctly. It took all of your competence and critical-thinking skills to get the job done. You could say that, at that moment in time, you were "sharp" and on point!

You don't want to lose that sharpness! You know the old saying, "If you don't use it, you lose it"? This, in fact, can be so true, and the bad part is that it floats away so slowly that you might not even realize you're losing it.

That is what I want to challenge you with this month. Try to keep the sharpness of a new graduate. You are so smart and have learned so much. You don't want to lose that.

Read Journals

I have a few ideas that can help you continue to keep your sharpness. One of the main things you can do is very easy: Read your professional journals. There are several good journals out there that focus on dental hygiene and dentistry that you can use to stay up to date. Many of these journals also offer CE courses that can help you get your required hours each year, too.

It really bothers me when I hear hygienists state that they have their required hours for the year and that they are "done." The minimum hours required to keep your license should be just that-minimum. You should always strive to go beyond the minimum number of CE hours.

Professional Associations

Another way to keep that sharpness is to get involved with your local dental hygiene association. Not only can you get your CE hours through it, but there are ways to get involved and use your leadership skills as an officer or active member. You can network with other professionals and discuss things in our field that others do not always understand. You can hear great speakers who will help you stay current in procedures and topics that will help your own office and patients.

Some of my best friends are other dental hygienists whom I truly respect. Other hygienists are wonderful, caring professionals you can connect with, which can help you to stay involved with what is going on in your professional career. Our profession can improve and we can be more accessible, but in order for growth to happen, we have to get involved.

Teach A Class

Another way to keep your sharpness is to teach some classes-either in your local dental hygiene school or in local elementary schools. You worked hard on the lesson plans for your community dentistry class.

Remember how rewarding and fun it was to teach those lessons? There is no one holding you back now but yourself! Volunteer to visit a classroom to teach kids how to brush, and get that excitement back.

There are plenty of opportunities for you to help. There are not many hygienists out there who volunteer to do these lessons, and the public health hygienists will always appreciate any help. They would be a great resource for you if you need to find a place to teach.

I challenge you this month to think about what you need to do to keep your strength of knowledge. What do you feel that you need to hone or sharpen?

Remember, it doesn't take long to "lose it," so don't take too long deciding. Stay on top of things, and don't get behind. Read those journals, get more CE hours, and get involved with your local ADHA component. Teach some dental lessons to a class and get involved in your community. You will be glad you did. Stay sharp, and happy scaling! RDH

Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD, is the Department Chair of Dental Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Whisenhunt has taught since 1987 in the dental hygiene and dental assisting curricula. She has a love for students and served as the state student advisor for nine years and has won the student Advisor of the Year award from ADHA in the past. Her teaching interests are in oral cancer, ethics, infection control, emergencies and orofacial anatomy. Dr. Whisenhunt also has a small continuing education business where she provides CE courses for dental practices and local associations. She can be reached at [email protected].