I recently heard fellow hygienist and friend, Lori Candland, BSDH, give an excellent talk on gratitude. Her words helped me examine my own life, and I've found many things for which I'm appreciative, and that have instilled hope for my future. We can all be thankful for opportunities of education, family, friends, and life in a free country. Gratitude is an important ingredient for staying positive and achieving goals in our professional and personal lives.
While I understand the need to appreciate all the good in life, it concerns me that sometimes this feeling of appreciation is an excuse to accept the status quo. Online articles and forums are full of employees who stay in unhealthy work environments who are "just happy to have a job." These workers strive to fit in and not make waves with employers who can easily fire "troublemakers" and replace them with other people who are pleased just to be working.
There is compatibility in appreciation for the good things and the desire to achieve, change, and progress. It is acceptable to be thankful for employment while actively seeking improvement in your work environment. Gratitude is not the excuse to become stagnant, complacent, or trapped. We must never be compelled to accept an unhealthy situation based on the assumption that acting otherwise would appear ungrateful. Fear is not the answer.
Many of us are privileged to provide clinical services in settings that not only support our endeavors outside the office, but also challenge us to stay current on research, products, materials, and health guidelines. Equally important, these offices are open to discussions of improvement because they know progress is always possible. In such practices, the status quo is never accepted as the only answer.
California is the first state with self-regulation for the practice of dental hygiene - something that calls for celebration and pride in a hard fought cause. Still, California lacks complete general supervision for dental hygienists. Idaho allows general supervision for all dental hygiene duties, yet is not self-regulated. It is easy to get discouraged with the unequal practice rules among the states. Yet there is also so much to celebrate in the notable progress made toward a self-regulated, self-governed, and independent profession. We can be thankful for all those who work hard on behalf of our careers, and be unsatisfied with our current position at the same time.
It is important to recognize those individuals and companies who support the practice of dental hygiene. Next time you walk the exhibit floor at UOR, ADHA, or any other predominately RDH event, take note and give thanks to those supporting our educational efforts. I also challenge you to contact companies you support and tell them you noticed their absence. It is not an ungrateful act to ask for a mutual show of appreciation.
Gratitude as a character trait wins friends and influences others for good. The best mentors in life are those who openly show appreciation for life experiences, possessions, and opportunities. An attitude of gratitude is not an excuse to sit on your hands and tell "poor me" stories. Work hard, be thankful, and never stop striving for something just a little better.
Lory Laughter, RDH, BS, practices clinically in Napa, Calif. She is owner of Dental IQ, a business responsible for the Annual Napa Dental Experience. Lory combines her love for travel with speaking nationally on a variety of topics.