I agreed with Joanne Sheehan`s article, "Identity Crisis" (July 1998), when she made the point that it is important that the patient knows who the hygienist is and what the hygienist`s qualifications are. Name tags, credentials in plain view, and businsess cards can all serve that end. She lost me, however, when she began promoting the shingle.
According to Becky Skaar, having a shingle makes "you feel like you have a greater stake in the office." By having a shingle, according to Lisa Kuntz, "You`re not just an employee any more ... it puts you at a different level."
Perhaps hygienists have been going about this idea of independent practice the wrong way. Instead of professional autonomy and self-direction, maybe all we need is signage. That`s the ticket! Instead of lobbying the voters for greater access to healthcare, we should demand goldleaf lettering on the door. That way, we can have all the appearance of professionals without the annoying burdens of leases, liabilities, and accounts overdue.
Sheehan asks, "Why can`t they at least post a `small signboard` outside their place of business?" Quite simply, the answer is because it is not their place of business - but rather their place of employment. There is a world of difference.
As a hygienist, putting your name on the door will not build equity for you in the practice. The hygienist has no tangible assets or investments tied up in the practice. Furthermore, many states prohibit hygienists from rendering care if a licensed dentist is not present. You cannot take patients or their records with you when you leave. In many jurisdictions, a hygienist may not even contact patients to inform them that they have left a practice. We are employees, and we work at the direction and the will of dentists. No amount of goldleaf paint can gloss over that reality.
Seeing my name on the office door might bring a tear to my eye, as it did to Sandie Brosh, but only because it would be a daily reminder of how far hygienists have to go before we can take our rightful place among health care professionals.
Dean Jewell, RDH
Las Vegas, Nevada
Editor`s note: In regards to the assertion that a health care office is not "their place of business ... [but] a place of employment," this logic is not necessarily true. Many health care facilities are now "owned" by management companies. As such, even the doctors in many cases are technically "employees." But their names still appear out front on the sign. As a hearing-impaired person, I`m very much aware of the fact that my audiologist (who has a master`s degree) has her name out front along with the ear, nose, and throat specialists (who are physicians). We agree with Sheehan`s assertion that the hygienist should be considered when signage is being erected.