I feel compelled to comment on the March Commentary regarding the "white tradition" in the hygiene profession. Ms. Jones believes that wearing white is demeaning and reduces our professional image.
I worked for over 10 years wearing a white lab coat over business attire. Since I spent half of my time as administrator of the practice and the rest in the clinic that arrangement seemed to work well. I still spend half of my time in administration, but, as I have become more aware of infection control, I made the decision to return to white pants and washable top with a lab coat. I would like to assure Ms. Jones that it has in no way altered my professional image.
Patients I have been working with for 15 years never noticed the change, and I appreciate the comfort and ability to throw everything into a washing machine and not have to worry about contamination. It is hard to imagine that wearing street clothes and covering them with a gown which extends from neck to calves is a more professional look. I doubt that emergency room physicians and surgeons who spend their day in scrubs worry about it eroding their professional image.
To my mind, apparel is not the way to demonstrate professionalism. I believe that is best done by being the best clinician possible, by keeping current in all aspects of the profession, and by communication with the patient.
Licenses and diplomas should have a prominent place in the treatment room, and hygienists should always have business cards. In our office, we write a newsletter and the hygienists always contribute thereby reminding patients that we are the office educators.
And last, but certainly not least, I think professionalism is a tone set in the office by mutual respect. Our doctors show us respect, and it is mutual. And if a patient should happen to confuse me with an assistant, I am not offended. I simply define our mutual roles and let the patient know that I admire the job our assistants do.
I believe that in this kind of atmosphere everyone is a professional and the hierachy fades. What emerges is a win-win for the patients and the entire dental team - and "who" is wearing "what" simply isn`t important.
Sue O`Brien, RDH