Coping with energy vampires and life

Aug. 1, 2011
On two days each week, I practice in a general dental office. Treating patients is one of the joys of my life.

by Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS
[email protected]

On two days each week, I practice in a general dental office. Treating patients is one of the joys of my life.

Every so often, though, I will encounter a patient who I like to think of as an energy vampire. This is the patient who literally sucks the lifeblood energy from you during treatment. My most recent energy vampire happened to be female. She is a senior with several medical issues, and her extreme obesity makes it difficult for her to be comfortable. Her oral hygiene is consistently poor, and the 45-minute appointments are physically challenging for both of us. My best work would be accomplished using an ultrasonic, and I made the decision to stand while working to help her tolerate the water.

I do not mind this inconvenience. Working with a patient upright so that she can get through a procedure is simply doing what needs to be done. Being empathetic to someone who endures daily what this woman does is simply what caring hygienists do. I couldn't begin to imagine living in her world.

It gets tougher, though, as the appointment continues, because no matter what I do, or say, nothing is right. After 20 minutes, I feel my lifeblood energy beginning to dissipate, and it's all downhill afterwards. You could mop the floor with me when the appointment is over.

The purpose of this column is not to complain, since we all treat patients like this on a regular basis. My intent is to share with you one of the disciplines that helps me to get through these experiences.

I became trained in transcendental meditation 15 years ago after a recommendation from my best friend, Linda Wilkinson, RDH. Since that time, I have meditated daily for 20 minutes upon arising, and often a second time on many days. While I am not a formally trained teacher, I have taught others simple meditative techniques. I sincerely recommend meditation to RDH readers not only as a coping mechanism, but as a life-enhancing habit. In a nutshell, meditation means going inward to connect with that which is bigger than all of us (you may label that what you will).

Here is a condensed instruction for general meditative practice. Should you wish to know more, Google rocks! First, if you who have tried to meditate and felt that you failed because your mind does not slow down, know that everyone encounters the same resistance.

Start by choosing a mantra for your ears only. A two-syllable word that is unrecognizable yet rolls easily off the tongue was assigned to me. The mantra is simply a word that you repeat, hundreds of times throughout your meditation practice. Begin by being alone where you are not distracted, get comfortable, note the time, and close your eyes. Focus on slowing your breathing.

Repeat the mantra to yourself continually. When thoughts come rushing in, acknowledge them briefly, and then return to your mantra. Expect this; it is normal. You may check in periodically to note the time, if you wish. As you wind down (after 20 minutes), focus on the breath and slowly return to normal breathing.

Meditation is remarkably subtle and amazingly helpful. Google it to learn of the surprise benefits and understand exactly what it is.

At lunchtime on clinical hygiene days, I drive my car to a nearby lot and park it under a shady tree. I eat my sandwich in solitude, and then I meditate. Those who see me might think I am taking a power nap.

I am absolutely addicted. On those days when energy vampires are part of my morning, I am able to return refreshed and rejuvenated to clinical care in the afternoon. "Onward we go; it's in our heart's core." Perhaps meditation will be helpful to you in your life.

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

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