Is 'Yes, I can' your response to a rapidly changing profession?
by Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS
The chants "yes, we can, yes we can" have been ringing out loud and clear during this presidential election cycle. Do you believe that about your own life? You have thoughts of moving to areas outside your clinical career. Yet you wonder what the options are. Teaching? Writing? Speaking? Public health? Corporate? Perhaps you already know what you want but are unsure where to start. Dentistry will change radically during the next few years, and you need to grow into the leader you want to become. In Living in the world of yes, you can become not just a leader but an influencer of the growth and change in our profession.
Living in the world of yes is not just about having a positive attitude. It is a bit more powerful. Jeffrey Gitomer says in his Little Gold Book of YES! Attitude, living in the world of yes assumes that everything you say and do will start with yes even when your reality seems to be no. To create and influence longlasting change, living in the world of yes is required.
Many of us have tried to create change in our patients' lives, our practices, and our own lives. We have yo-yo dieted, brought ideas from CE courses that never were implemented, and spent numerous hours trying to get our patients to floss — all to little avail. It is easy to give up and fall into the Serenity Prayer: "Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change." Giving up seems easier but it's not as easy as living in the world of yes.
Positive attitude has nothing to do with what happens to you. It is what you do and how you react to what happens to you. Finding a way to turn a no into a yes is how things change. Sometimes it's just about more money, like working at a job you hate because the money is so good. Most times it's not. In living in the world of yes, changing wrong answers into right answers with a twist of an idea is liberating.
It's using a lexicon that hinges on clarity and visualization. When you think of your position in the world and it's not what you want it to be, sit back and think to yourself, "What do I have to do to get to where I want to go?" That is the positive stance, the ideal.
Dentistry is a profession rich with individuals at a wide variety of stages in their lives. One cannot make assumptions on how long they have been practicing based on an individual's age. It can no longer be taken for granted when looking at a continuing education audience that the females are hygienists and the males are dentists. Close to 50% of dental students are females. More males are entering dental hygiene. Many dental hygiene professionals have had other careers prior to entering the profession. This creates a richer profession when we learn to plumb these depths to create more leaders.
How the Systemic Link Will Propel Us
The oral-systemic link is the subject of innumerable articles, on the lecture circuit, and in government papers. Medicine has entered into our arena — finally. Oral infections have known systemic implications, and systemic conditions have a reciprocal impact on oral health. Inflammation is currently seen as the key to the oral-systemic connection. Recording vital signs, including weight assessment, must become routine. Blood glucose monitoring and bacteriologic and genetic testing are only a few of the many types of additional evaluations needed. Saliva is already becoming the diagnostic fluid of the future.
Knowledge of these connections is not enough. Picture in your mind the possibility of this progress in practice. Do you believe it? Can you see it happening? We need leaders living in the world of yes to solidify the progress.
Minimal intervention dentistry (MI) makes sense from both a health and cost basis. MI is the philosophy embracing the concept of performing the least amount of dentistry in any given situation. It shifts the approach from surgical/restorative to a total health prevention/preservation model. Dental hygienists are the professionals most suited to shift the paradigm with the shortage of dentists and increasing number of dental hygienists graduating each year. Health care costs have been skyrocketing, and politicians are finally realizing it is time for adjustment.
Practice acts are changing all over the country, altering and reducing the limitations for dental hygiene practice. Maine, Alaska, California, and Minnesota are a few of the most recent examples. The professionals responsible for producing those changes are lving in the world of yes and work with dogged determination for these positive outcomes. This means transformation is possible. Picture the possibilities. Do you believe it? Can you see it happening? The pieces and parts of MI are there, yet we need leaders to bring them together and drive the progress.
Living in the world of yes will be necessary as we shift into a chartless profession. By 2014, we will all be chartless. The federal National Health Information Infrastructure (NHII) is already formulating the parameters for this future. Chartless records are not a choice; 2014 is a short six years away. We have seen hospitals, physicians' offices, and other health-care providers moving in this direction. In dentistry, only about 25% of the practices are using computers chairside, and only 1% of practices are currently chartless.
There is a need for leaders to pilot this revolution. In a recent ADA News article titled, "If We Don't Do It, the MBAs Will," the author said there are three ways we can handle this change: 1) we could fight it and fail, 2) we could accept it and survive, or 3) we can lead it and prosper. Picture in your mind the possibility. Do you believe it? Can you see it happening? We need dental hygiene leaders living in the world of yes to influence the direction of those changes.
What most of us lack is not the courage to influence change but the skills. One of the first skills is to decide, "Yes, I am a lifelong learner." Even with the incredible expertise, know-how, and proficiency you may have already attained, there is always more to learn.
In my personal living in the world of yes, I see the day when oral cancer is routinely prevented and detected early. To change statistics doesn't mean working harder doing more of the same. It will take fundamental change from current methods. I can picture it in my mind. I do believe it and can see it happening, and it will take many leaders to put progress in oral cancer prevention into play.
This year is the 20th anniversary of my living in the world of yes, and I have taken another turn in direction. Just as my journey was aided by many wonderful mentors, supportive friends, and family, my new beginning is to nurture new influential future key opinion leaders (FKOL) as one of the directors of CareerFusion (www.careerfusion.net). Whether you know where you want to go — or are not yet clear but have that burning desire in your gut — CareerFusion can help you to discover your answers in a warm atmosphere to explore opportunities with positive reinforcement and motivational support. The photo shows our class of 2008. This group truly believes "Yes, we can!" Even if you aren't yet sure of your direction but are ready to run and just need help to develop the necessary skills, dentistry needs you and CareerFusion is ready to help you find your way.
About the Author
Patti DiGangi, RDH, BS, is a speaker, author, practicing dental hygiene clinician, director of CareerFusion, and American Red Cross authorized provider of CPR and first aid training. She can be contacted through her Web site at www.pdigangi.com.