One small step forward

It is hard to believe that another year has flown by and we are already into 2013.

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BY JOANN R. GURENLIAN, RDH, PHD

It is hard to believe that another year has flown by and we are already into 2013. Now that the national election and major holidays have passed, let us take a few moments to think about something we really would like to accomplish in our professional growth and development. Forget about the personal goals of losing weight or cleaning up the room where everything gets thrown haphazardly, making you look like a type IV hoarder. Let’s make this year the time for giving a boost to our professional world.

We already know that we have to take a number of continuing-education courses to renew our licenses. Likewise, we have to maintain our clinical skills. If you had all the time in the world — not to mention financial resources — what is the one thing you would really like to learn to improve yourself as a dental hygienist? Perhaps a few of these ideas may strike a chord with you:

  • Learn about alternative practice setting options.
  • Take a course in marketing, business, or whatever strikes you as relevant.
  • Get updated on long-term planning — financial, disability, etc.
  • Research a systemic disease that patients seem to be presenting with in your practice.
  • Investigate educational opportunities — baccalaureate, master’s, doctorate.
  • Learn how to use a new dental device.
  • Explore volunteer opportunities in your community.
  • Create interprofessional collaborations.
  • Join our professional association or a new one!

Take a moment and write down on a sheet of paper what it is you really want to do.

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Have you ever noticed that you can sit among family, friends, and colleagues and talk about the things you really want to do — such as vacation on an island, learn to snowboard, get a better or different instrument — yet somehow these great ideas never get accomplished? Later, you look back and wonder what took you away from making those things that seemed important actually occur. This year — no ifs, ands, or buts — promise yourself you are going to do one thing strictly for your professional development. Now, go back to what you wrote down and ask yourself these two questions:

  • Why is this important to me?
  • What will this allow me to do?

If you like your answers, then take a moment and let yourself recognize that this one small step may be very valuable to you either immediately or within a few years. Rather than come up with all the reasons why this one thing cannot happen, start generating a list of what you need to do to make it happen. Do you need resources (who and what)? When do you want this new activity to occur in 2013? Now, let’s see what that looks like on paper.

Really, do make your own table. Take the time and do this activity now. You deserve 10 minutes to reflect on yourself.


Notice that below the table I am asking you to make a commitment to yourself and get a witness to sign this goal as well. Why? There is something about writing down a promise to yourself and sharing it with someone that induces you to move forward and see it through. Talk is nice, but making a commitment in writing tends to make you take yourself more seriously. And don’t you deserve to take yourself seriously?

Does this activity work? It has for me, my students, and my colleagues for years. When I do this activity with others, together we find a host of things getting accomplished: running for office on the local, state, or national level; purchasing a piece of equipment for the office; learning a new skill set; changing legislation; etc.

I want you to try this activity just this year. Write to me and tell me what you decided to do and whether or not it happened. Maybe you don’t think anyone else will care as much as you do about this, but rest assured that I care! At the end of this year, we can celebrate our accomplishments for 2013 together! 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 interim dental hygiene graduate program director at Idaho State University, and president-elect of the International Federation of Dental Hygienists.

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