I am writing in response to Tracee Corson`s Guest Commentary, (September 1995), "Hygienists must unite to collect proper benefits and compensation." I commend Tracee for bringing this sensitive issue back into the limelight.
As an RDH who has practiced for more than 10 years, I believe that hygienists need to to reminded of how valuable we are to the dentist. We play a vital role in the success of a dental practice. I agree with Tracee that dental hygienists need to be compensated fairly. An important issue that was not addressed in the article is what steps must hygienists take to ensure that our salaries more commensurate with our production ability.
The first step begins with ourselves, believing that our skills and the services that we provide to the patients are extremely important. We also must realize that we are providing these same valuable skills and services to the employer dentists in the form of a commodity. As with many other business arrangements or transactions where money is received in exchange for a service, dentists are buying and paying for the services that the dental hygienists are delivering to the dental practice.
The second step we must take as dental hygienists is to educate ourselves about the business aspect of dental hygiene. Hygienists cannot afford to be ignorant about the hundreds of thousands of dollars generated annually from the services they provided, not to mention the thousands of dollars generated from selling dentistry. Whether we like the word "sell" or not, we do in fact "sell" dentistry.
Educating ourselves about the business aspects of dental hygiene will enable us to speak confidently when negotiating salaries and benefits with employers or prospective employers.
Last, but not least, the third step is hygienists must not be afraid or intimidated to ask for fair compensation. Fear and anxiety can be transformed into something positive. Use these two emotions to obtain better wages and benefits. Hygienists cannot complain about low salaries when they have not asked for anything better.
I am happy to shed a positive light on this issue because after struggling with the issue of fair compensation for years, I finally decided I deserved better compensation for my valuable services. I negotiated my salary based on 40 percent of the production I generate from the hygiene department. The dentistry I promote (I don`t particularly care for the word "sell" either!) pays for my benefit package which includes health insurance, paid holidays, paid vacation, and a pension fund. I attribute my fair compensation and benefits package to the fact that I believe that my dental hygiene skills and services are worth top dollar, and I won`t settle for anything less.
Name withheld upon request