Are you flexible enough to initiate your own career work style?
By Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, BS
Have you been considering temping?
Many hygiene graduates are advised that temping is an effective way to gain real-world experience and try a variety of practice environments on for size. Temping is also useful for more seasoned hygienists who are semiretired, looking to add hours to an existing schedule, or those who are simply looking for flexibility with their work commitments.
As with permanent employment, temping has its benefits and risks. The ability to accept or decline assignments, the sidestepping of office politics, and the exposure to new faces and practice settings are attractive for many hygienists.
While the plethora of perks lures many to become temps, temping is not without its downsides. Hours and days are not guaranteed. Learning to function in a new office weekly or daily is stressful. Some practices are more welcoming than others. And, of course, there is the dreaded “Where is my regular hygienist?” question that most patients will ask you.
Having temped quite a bit myself, I can speak to the pros and cons. As a hygiene recruiter, I frequently learn about other hygienists’ temping experiences as well. After piecing together my own experiences with the stories (both positive and negative) of others, I have come to believe that temping can be positive, if done with intention.
What do I mean by intention? Intention requires realistic weighing of benefits and risks, and ensuring you know ahead of time what you getting into. If you go through a traditional temp agency, they will send you anywhere, and I mean anywhere, unless you can be quite specific about the commute time, hours, and practice environments you are comfortable with. For example, if you prefer not to work with children, be sure to let the agency know ahead of time.
Also, know when you will be paid, and by whom. Some offices pay by the day, while larger groups pay in a two-week cycle. Some temps are paid by their temp agency, while others are paid by the practice. Some write checks at the end of the workday, while others send paychecks by mail. If getting paid on a certain date is important to you, make sure you know ahead of time how the agency or practice will pay you.
There is the dreaded ‘Where is my regular hygienist?’ question that most patients will ask you.
Of course, traditional agencies are not the only way to temp nowadays. Some hygienists create their own “brand” and manage their own assignments, while others use newer online temp-to-practice matching platforms. These sites take away the “middle man” of the agency, and allow users to schedule temp jobs, pay rates, and leave reviews of temps as well as practices on one easy-to-use app. I believe these platforms will be the future of dental temping, though traditional agencies are still thriving in many parts of the country. The platforms may not exist everywhere yet, and they may not have enough practices signed up to support the number of folks looking to temp—yet.
Temping for a large group practice
I have found that some of the most satisfied temps often stick with the same large group that has multiple offices. If the group is to your liking, the benefits are huge. You will likely have steady work due the large number of locations, and you will build relationships with the folks you work with.
• You will avoid the go-between of temp agencies, and deal directly with the group’s managers, who you’ll get to know personally.
• The learning curve is often easier, because you are exposed to the same protocols every time you temp with them.
• You may often see the same patients.
As an added bonus, if you are seeking permanent work, groups will often give their temps first crack at permanent positions that come up, without having to pay the agency fee to acquire you. You experience the variety and flexibility of temping while still having familiarity. Of course, not every group in every location can keep you consistently busy, so be sure to ask upfront how often you can expect to be called for jobs.
One aspect of temping that I believe is critical (and often overlooked) is to have insight into your own personality type and how you best practice hygiene. Temping requires that you be incredibly flexible and comfortable with change. Not everyone is. In order to build rapport and elicit support with an ever-changing cast of team members, you need to be friendly, amiable to different personalities, and at least somewhat outgoing.
If you enjoyed your temping experience, it is a good idea to send a note or e-mail to the manager, letting them know that you enjoyed working with them, and to please think of you when they have future assignments.
If the job did not go so well, of course you will want to inform your agency, but try to avoid any negative talk about the practice when temping at other practices. You certainly do not want them to think you will speak negatively of them too!
While there is no one-size-fits-all way to temp, there are more targeted approaches that will ensure you are successful. By knowing what you want going in, your temping experience will be more pleasant for you, the practice, and your patients.
Andrea Kowalczyk, RDH, BS, is a national hygiene recruiter for a large dental group. She is a published author, speaker, coach and winner of the “2011 National Dental Hygiene Leader of the Year” at American Dental Partners. She can be reached at [email protected].