Random acts of kindness in dental hygiene

July 1, 2011
I am thrilled to be here! This column has been a longtime vision of mine. It is an honor to become a regular writer for a magazine I have admired ...

by Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS
[email protected]

I am thrilled to be here! This column has been a longtime vision of mine. It is an honor to become a regular writer for a magazine I have admired and respected throughout my professional career.

The title of the column embodies what I intend to create. As professional hygienists, we rely on evidence-based research in our everyday clinical decisions and recommendations for patients. As a clinician, teacher, and consultant, I have long come to appreciate the contributions of anecdotal evidence. There may be no scientific basis, but if there is positive impact and no apparent harm, it may still be a win/win.

I like to credit my Irish ancestry, but regardless of the source, storytelling is in my blood. I have always appreciated learning or being inspired by a good yarn. My hope is to recreate that for you here. Each column will aspire to be an insight acquired or lesson learned. I ask you to lend me your ears, and I will do the same. Your suggestions are welcomed at [email protected]. The column will reflect on all that may prove beneficial to your clinical practice, careers, and personal lives.

Random acts of kindness

What does the phrase "random acts of kindness" mean to you? I have one gesture I make fairly regularly. My grocery store forces its patrons to rent shopping carts for 25 cents, which is returned when the cart is pushed back into the padlock. When I have finished shopping, I unload at my car, and then look around the parking lot for someone who is arriving. I push the cart over to a new arrival, and ask if he or she would like it.

Typically, arriving customers are interested, and most pleased not to have to deal with depositing money into the padlock case. Without fail, the person begins fishing for the quarter to give to me instead.

Enter my random act of kindness. I say, "No, keep your quarter." It matters not the age or gender of the receiver – all are taken aback by my gesture. It makes my day to give away a 25-cent shopping cart and see the expression on their surprised faces.

Interestingly enough, when the shoe is on the other foot, and I'm in need of a shopping cart, I might approach an individual who is about to return one to the padlock.

I ask, "May I have your cart?"

He or she invariably says, "Sure!"

And then, they wait. Wait for me to dig out my quarter to pay them, which I, of course, do. In all my years, I have never had a person offer me the cart sans the quarter!

I do what I do because it feels good to do so, and never because I expect anything in return.

What random acts of kindness do we provide for our patients? Throughout my professional years, I have come to know many dental hygienists who walk the extra mile. An example from Colene House, RDH, was posted on Amy's List recently:

"I had an older gent come in on Monday in a wheelchair. I opened the door to our waiting area, looked him dead in the eye and said, 'Hello, handsome!' You should have seen the grin that broke out on his face! Afterwards, when I rolled him back out to his wife, I gave him my best Mae West imitation, 'Come back an' see me sometime!' His wife looked at me and said she hadn't seen him giggle like that in a long time. That made my day."

Yes, Colene, such impromptu gestures do indeed make our day! The old adage "What goes around comes around" is so true. I have great faith it comes back tenfold. "I hear it in the deep heart's core" is a line from Yeats' "The Lake Isle of Innisfree." Show me a dental hygienist and 99% of the time, I will show you a person with kindest heart core!

Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS, is a practicing clinician, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Burlington County College, and an educational consultant for the Icon technology at DMG America. Eileen offers CE forums to doctors, hygienists, and their teams. Reach her at [email protected] or 609-259-8008. Visit her website at www.eileenmorrissey.com.

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