Content Dam Rdh En Articles Print Volume 38 Issue 2 Content Dam Refreshed For Another Go Leftcolumn Article Thumbnailimage File

'Refreshed' for another go

Feb. 1, 2018
This dental hygienist makes it her mission to help her peers love the profession again. It’s easy to fall into the trap of day-to-day monotony in clinical practice. Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, wants to help.
Kowalczyk’s program focuses on techniques that revive dental hygienists’ engagement with their careers

Ann-Marie C. Depalma, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH

Clinical hygienists can fall into the monotony trap in the day-to-day grind of practice. This can lead to being frustrated with hygiene, looking for other opportunities, or being resigned that this is “only a job” and a paycheck. But what if there was a way to reinvigorate your hygiene practice? Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, BS, has developed a program to renew one’s love of dental hygiene while benefiting patients and practices.

“Hygiene Refreshed” provides hygienists with the opportunity to develop their practice niche so they can take care of not only patients, but also themselves, in order to experience career satisfaction. Andrea focuses on treating patients holistically while centering on their caries risk assessment, diet, periodontal, and overall health status.

Many hygienists enjoy the intangible rewards that treating patients can provide, but things such as limited appointment times, lack of educational opportunities, and the monotony of hygiene can create frustration and disappointment. Andrea’s program aims to provide hygienists with real-world, doable techniques that can help reignite their love of hygiene they had when they graduated.

While “Hygiene Refreshed” is designed specifically for hygienists, Andrea also provides several programs for the entire team. “An ounce of prevention—becoming a prevention-centered practice” incorporates the latest caries risk assessment, periodontal, diagnostic, and smoking cessation tools to create a more prevention-oriented dental team. “Right, relevant, and relatable” focuses on diagnosing, educating, and presenting periodontal treatment in ways that empower patients to make the best care decisions. By using the tools and techniques discussed in both of these programs, teams have seen tremendous growth in the productivity and profitability of their practices because they were inspired to achieve more for their patients.

Many hygienists who contact her often have no idea what they’re seeking, other than ‘getting out of the operatory.’

“Hygiene Refreshed” was inspired by the many e-mails that Andrea received from hygienists who wanted to transition out of traditional clinical practice. Andrea knows what it takes to be successful beyond the chair. One has to be making the change for the right reasons, and with a goal or position in mind. Many hygienists who contact her often have no idea what they’re seeking, other than “getting out of the operatory.” Andrea is sad for them since she believes hygiene is an exciting career.

She has always been fascinated by dental hygiene and loves the sounds and smells of the dental practice! She enjoys the large periodontal cases and the feeling that she has made someone healthier and happier. It was only later in her career that she found she wanted to make a difference in other hygienists’ lives rather than patients’ lives. Andrea sees herself in many of the hygienists who contact her, which motivated her to create the program.

She received her dental hygiene degree from East Florida State College and earned her bachelor in science degree from O’Hehir University. She also holds a postgraduate certificate in dental hygiene mentoring from O’Hehir University. She has been a clinical dental hygienist for American Dental Partners (ADPI) and served as a hygiene mentor. During her work as a mentor with ADPI, she was selected to participate in the American Dental Partners Leadership Institute, an intensive four-year leadership development program. Andrea was named the 2011 ADPI National Dental Hygiene Leader of the Year.

Her background as a mentor allowed her to create and present continuing education programs. She developed a special interest in assessing a patient’s unique risk of caries. In addition to presenting programs on caries, she has written numerous articles on the subject.

Her first experience in presenting to a group of more than 50 people was a baptism by fire. A friend who had committed to presenting a program to over 300 people was unable to do it at the last minute, so she asked Andrea only two days in advance. When Andrea arrived, she learned that she’d be following a speaker who worked with Zig Ziglar, definitely an intimidating experience. She made it through and felt the high that educating professionals provides. Subsequent presentations have seemed easy, but Andrea admits she still becomes nervous each time she presents.

Andrea enjoys helping others and believes it’s what people are called to do. A native Texan, she lives in Houston with her husband and young son. Family time is important to her and she enjoys history, gardening, traveling, and reading. If she wasn’t a hygienist she could see herself as a historian or librarian since she feels history is not only entertaining but also relevant, because it allows people to learn from their successes and failures.

Although Andrea no longer practices clinical hygiene and is a dental hygiene recruiter, she contributes to the profession as a mentor. She believes that anyone can be a mentor if they have knowledge to share. She is a member of ADHA and encourages her fellow hygienists to join. She enjoys engaging audiences and feels a sense of accomplishment when a hygienist is happier because of something she taught him or her. Whether in clinical, education, research, or other avenue of dental hygiene, Andrea helps guide hygienists back to their love of the profession.

For more information about Andrea or her programs, contact her at [email protected].

Thought for the month: “Either I will find a way, or I will make one.” —Philip Sidney

ANN-MARIE C. DEPALMA, RDH, MEd, FADIA, FAADH, is the 2017 recipient of the Esther M. Wilkins Distinguished Alumni Award of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygiene/Massachusetts College of Pharmacy. She 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 has authored chapters in several texts for dental hygiene. She can be reached at [email protected].