As a millennial hygienist in an industry currently celebrating the passage of its first century, I pride myself on an ability to learn from my predecessors.
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by Trish De Dios, RDH
As a millennial hygienist in an industry currently celebrating the passage of its first century, I pride myself on an ability to learn from my predecessors. There is a wealth of knowledge within this industry just waiting to be tapped into, especially from an admittedly inquisitive hygienist such as myself. But have you ever felt professional resistance when asking a peer to share information or techniques? We are all educators to the succeeding generations of hygienists. The future of our industry relies upon the transfer of implicit knowledge from peer to peer, office to office, and tangentially between other health-care providers. I value the networking opportunities provided at dental conventions, CE seminars, and even temping (the conversations in other offices have led to added skills and refinement to my clinical repertoire). The sharing of knowledge can occur in various mediums from simple conversations to discussion posts within social media groups. Thought-provoking and ah-ha moments await the knowledge-sharing clinician.
A hygiene hoarder is a term I coined to describe hygiene professionals who have a tendency to hoard information from fellow colleagues or gloat about what they know without explanation. My intent here is to highlight the pitfalls of this. The term does not imply the demeaning of other RDHs, nor does it describe a hygienist who has an overabundance of collected extracted teeth.
Firsthand experience of hygiene hoarding has inspired me to discuss the issue in an attempt to educate fellow hygienists. I encourage the exchange of information among peers. The goal is to help identify, understand, and contribute to a resolution to this idea of the hygiene hoarder.
Speaking from personal experience, I remember after overhearing an enthused RDH discuss Vitamin C supplements to her patient, I took the time at the end of my day to ask more about her very specific recommendation. Had I known my curiosity would be met with an unyielding hygiene hoarder, I may have saved myself the distress of the inquiry. I left with no answers, only more questions. How does this trend of information "hoarding" start, since, when we are in dental hygiene school, we are constantly sharing knowledge through projects, presentations, and class discussions?
One theme became apparent during a research, best surmised by David Skyrme of KM Magazine. He states, "One of the challenges of knowledge management is that of getting people to share their knowledge. Why should people give up their hard–won knowledge, when it is one of their key sources of personal advantage? In some organizations, sharing is natural. In others, the old dictum, ‘knowledge is power' reigns" (Skyrme, 2002). Figure 1 provides a glossary of potential root causes for hygiene hoarding. Recognizing these can help alleviate the stress of encounters such as my experience. Had I realized a probable reason for the information hoarding, I could have handled the situation better.
If you share any of the aforementioned schools of thought, you may be a hygiene hoarder. Luckily, you are an avid RDH reader who is committed to your professional growth and will use this article for reflection and development. The forward thinking dental hygienist realizes that so much of being successful depends on teamwork, collaboration, and collective knowledge. Figure 2 offers solutions to overcoming knowledge hoarding within your private practice.
Different approaches will be appropriate in different solutions. While I don't advocate pushing your views on others as gospel, it is my belief that if approached and questioned by a peer, it is my responsibility as a health-care professional to provide the best possible knowledge on the topic. Who knows, you may just save a life. It is no coincidence that a local oral cancer motto reads "Spread Awareness - Save Lives." Staying abreast of our dental hygiene methodologies will contribute to positively exemplify the hygienist as an educated, health-care professional. Career development is a personal journey that encompasses advocacy for the dental hygiene profession. It is in our favor not only as independent clinicians but also as an entire profession to be proud knowledge sharers and collaboratively celebrate all our individual strengths and expertise. RDH
1. The 3Cs of Knowledge Sharing: Culture, Co-operation and Commitment. Aug 2002. Retrieved from www.skyrme.com/updates/u64_f2.html on Mar 30 2013.
TRISH DE DIOS, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works full-time clinically and is also a Regional Coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at email@example.com.
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