Looking down on assistants?

After reading Heidi Jones` article about the "white tradition" in the March 1996 issue, I could see how some people may be offended by it. The article discussed looking the part of a professional, which is commendable. However, Ms. Jones also expressed concern about hygienists looking like dental assistants. This attitude permeates our profession, but should be questioned.

Dear RDH:

After reading Heidi Jones` article about the "white tradition" in the March 1996 issue, I could see how some people may be offended by it. The article discussed looking the part of a professional, which is commendable. However, Ms. Jones also expressed concern about hygienists looking like dental assistants. This attitude permeates our profession, but should be questioned.

I am a hygienist in a very successful office. The assistants in our office wear scrubs. I also wear scrubs. I have no need to set myself apart. Assistants deserve to be treated with respect, the same respect that we expect from dentists.

The assistants in my office would make wonderful hygienists - maybe better hygienists than most - because they have had valuable practical experience. Assistants would be able to contribute greatly to patient education and may function better as a team than most hygienists. They might understand how assistants feel when they are alienated by prima donna hygienists, and hopefully they`d avoid doing it. All they are lacking is the formal education.

Hygienists don`t enjoy being looked down upon by dentists. Likewise, we should not attempt to put ourselves above the assistants. As a hygienist, I couldn`t replace any of our assistants without proper training. Some assistants have been in the business for years and have considerable knowledge that we benefit from.

My husband has a PhD and works with people of varying levels of education. He avoids dressing in ways that would set himself apart from those with less education. By flaunting your diploma you may be establishing a barrier that inhibits team cohesiveness, office production, and patient respect. Having a degree doesn`t necessarily mean that you know more.

I don`t worry about who dresses the best, or who has the most education. Our goal should be to provide the best care possible for our patients. Hygienists can`t do that alone, but it can be accomplished when you work as a team.

Candace K. Jenks, RDH

Scottsbluff, Nebraska

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