Soft skills: Pangakis' course focuses on 'language of appreciation' with dental staff members

Dec. 24, 2015
Soft skills are desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge. They include utilizing common sense, possessing the ability to deal with people, and demonstrating a positive, flexible attitude. What do you and other dental staff members truly understand about soft skills?

Pangakis' course focuses on 'language of appreciation'


As defined by, soft skills are "desirable qualities for certain forms of employment that do not depend on acquired knowledge. They include utilizing common sense, possessing the ability to deal with people, and demonstrating a positive, flexible attitude." This certainly describes the attributes of a dental hygienist. But what do you and your team truly understand about soft skills? Fran Pangakis, RDH, understands soft skills and their importance to dentistry. Along with being a hygienist, Fran also possesses HR certification, TTI behavioral certification, and certification from the Institute of Social & Emotional Intelligence (ISEI).

With her expertise in these areas, she has developed a program titled "The Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace" that discusses appreciation and soft skills within dentistry and how they can positively affect the dental team. Based on the book by Gary Chapman, PhD, The Five Love Languages, and business training developed by Paul White, PhD, Five Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace: Empowering Organizations by Encouraging People, Fran's program allows participants to understand the value that appreciation has within the dental environment. Often dental professionals receive appreciation from patients, but rarely is it received from employers or coworkers. By engaging in the program participants will:

  • Understand the importance of appreciation
  • Discover the five languages of appreciation and how they affect dental teams
  • Review ways of showing appreciation
  • Express positive appreciation to colleagues
  • Create an affirmative work environment by creating individualized expressions of appreciation

Participants find that having a workplace where employees are engaged and feel appreciated and valued reduces the risk of mistakes. This keeps people focused on the task at hand, providing the utmost patient care-the entire team is truly collaborating. This collaboration increases the patient's experience by providing a higher level of care.

Fran completed training by Dr. White based on his book and is authorized to conduct training seminars to organizations and work-based teams with the "Appreciation at Work" curriculum; her "Five Language" program is based on this curriculum. As a CareerFusion leadership coach, each year she presents the program to hygienists seeking opportunities beyond the clinical setting. By understanding how one's personality, emotional intelligence, and soft skills work in combination with clinical and educational achievements, the hygienists she coaches gain valuable insight into themselves and potential career opportunities.

After practicing clinical hygiene for 25 years, Fran realized her strengths lie in relationship building with patients and coworkers, in addition to her clinical skills and knowledge. She decided to move beyond clinical practice based on her strengths and began consulting and coaching. As a coach, she often found that very limited value was placed on the soft skills within dentistry. Dentistry is scientifically based; yet dental teams interact with people daily, often with mixed results. By engaging in more "right-brained" activities for the profession, Fran found her voice and a vibrant new career.

The appreciation program is a blend of didactic and experiential learning with a handout that contains fill-in-the-blanks and discussion questions. She often will have course participants take an "appreciation" assessment prior to the program. If the entire team is participating, she will use this assessment to uncover each team member's appreciative language and how to best communicate with one another based on their unique styles. The program lends itself to interaction and Fran uses humor and real-life situations to demonstrate points and examples of appreciation.

Fran is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists (Massachusetts College of Pharmacy and Health Science University) and holds certifications in coaching, emotional intelligence coaching, human resources, and personality assessments. Since one of her certifications is in human resources, as she was transitioning from clinical practice, she began presenting continuing education programs for Bent Ericksen & Associates HR Consultants (BEA). Additionally, she is a lead trainer for BEA with Drake P3, an online talent assessment tool that helps balance and build effective teams through personality strengths and emotionally intelligent hiring. As a child, she wanted to be involved with people, possibly working in the Foreign Service as a diplomat where she could combine her interest in learning about languages and cultures with her love of travel. As a consultant and coach, she gets to do much of that.

As a career, dental hygiene fell into her lap. In high school she worked as a dental assistant for a dentist in her hometown. She assisted graduate students in the office; one thought she had good hand-eye coordination and suggested she investigate dental hygiene. She researched the career, applied, was accepted, and the rest is history! Currently she is not an ADHA member; however, earlier in her career when she practiced clinically, she was. As she has transitioned into consulting, she has not kept up her membership. Fran enjoys meeting fellow hygienists from across the country during her presentations and having the ability to influence colleagues to follow their dreams. She dislikes having to submit her presentations months before a program because she can often be found updating her programs.

Her passions are her family, friends, and looking for the joy in everyday living. Fran is committed to seeing the good in everything around her and practices what she preaches by expressing gratitude and appreciation daily. During a recent program, she was told that her handout was missing pages. Forgetting she had a microphone on, words that were unprofessional came out, but luckily no one in the audience was offended. Even in a situation such as that, Fran can appreciate the situation for what it was.

Fran values the opportunity to give back to her profession. Relationships she created with patients when she was a clinical hygienist provided her with the ability for growth and development. This growth has allowed her to assist other professionals to improve the health and profitability of their dental practice. Understanding and using the soft skill of appreciation allows team members to feel valued. This in turn translates to overall career satisfaction and improved practice efficiency and patient care. For more information on Fran or her program, contact: [email protected]

Thought for the month: Wishing everyone a happy holiday season and all the best, both professionally and personally, in 2016! RDH

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Dental health-care professionals are encouraged to assess orofacial myofunctional disorders (OMDs) in their patients. Interest in myofunctional therapy by sleep experts is compelling dental health-care professionals to revisit the evaluation of myofunctional disorders.

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ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is a Fellow of the American Academy of Dental Hygiene and the Association of Dental Implant Auxiliaries, as well as a continuous member of ADHA. She presents continuing education programs for dental team members on a variety of topics. Ann-Marie is collaborating with several authors on various books for dental hygiene and can be reached at [email protected].