Have you made a difference this year?

At the end of the year, many dental practices take an inventory of supplies and equipment in their offices. But how often do we stop and take an inventory of ourselves? How are you doing? Are you healthier this year than you were last year, or do you weigh more and are exercising less than before?

BY Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD

At the end of the year, many dental practices take an inventory of supplies and equipment in their offices. But how often do we stop and take an inventory of ourselves? How are you doing? Are you healthier this year than you were last year, or do you weigh more and are exercising less than before?

You think about your personal, physical items, but what about your professional life? Are you stuck in a rut? Are you doing things the same old way? Have you searched for new technology or equipment that could make your professional life better, and do you know what's available? Are you seeking high quality and useful CE, or just getting your minimum number of hours and calling it good?

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It can become so easy to just do the minimum, and before you know it, your minimum has dropped lower than you thought. I challenge you to do a personal and professional inventory at the end of this year. Set some goals for yourself and write them down. Think about what you need to do to improve yourself physically and professionally. Do you want to get another degree or take a really good perio course? Is there something that you've always wanted to do or somewhere you've always wanted to go with your career? Have you been too scared or busy to try it? Life is short, and before you know it, five years have come and gone. You need to see what's out there to improve yourself, your knowledge base, your skill set, and your life.

Just because you're out of dental hygiene school does not mean you stop learning. A lot of you realize how much you still have to learn, and that's a good thing. You're in charge now, so you can pick and choose what you need and want to learn more about. Do not get complacent and comfortable and get by with just your minimum. You're smart and creative and can do almost anything you put your mind to. You just need to challenge yourself and give yourself permission to explore! (No pun intended!)

There are so many new things in dentistry today that can improve the quality of care for your patients. Things are being invented and procedures are being used that can help you with a variety of things. New oral cancer screening tools, voice-activated probing recorders, new ultrasonic scaler tips, and a variety of infection control devices can save valuable time and prevent cross contamination, and they're all out there for the finding.

So how would you stack up with an inventory of you this year? Have you made a difference in your patients' oral health care? What have you accomplished this year? Have you learned new technology or a new procedure? Have you met more than your minimum number of CE hours? Do you feel as smart as or smarter than you did when you were in school? If you seem to come up short on your list, why is that? How did it happen? You realize you may have gotten a little slack and haven't challenged yourself. You may be in a little bit of a rut. You know that you get in a rut when you sink in and settle down where you're standing, and that usually does not happen when you're on the move. So get moving! Challenge yourself to be better next year, and check off something on that list of yours. Before you know it, another year or five has passed you by.

On a personal note, I can say that writing this column is something that I've always wanted to do. This year, I can check that off my list and add it as an accomplishment. I'm enjoying it, and it keeps me challenged, and that's what I need to grow and improve. I do not want to be caught sitting still and in a rut. I've been there before and I don't like it. I hope you find what you need out there, but remember - to find it, you have to be out there looking for it!

I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a great end to 2014. Happy scaling! RDH


Jannette Whisenhunt, RDH, BS, MEd, PhD, is the Department Chair of Dental Education at Forsyth Technical Community College in Winston-Salem, N.C. Dr. Whisenhunt has taught since 1987 in the dental hygiene and dental assisting curricula. She has a love for students and served as the state student advisor for nine years and has won the student Advisor of the Year award from ADHA in the past. Her teaching interests are in oral cancer, ethics, infection control, emergencies and orofacial anatomy. Dr. Whisenhunt also has a small continuing education business where she provides CE courses for dental practices and local associations. She can be reached at jwhisenhunt@forsythtech.edu.

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