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Holier than thou?

Jan. 1, 2018
Eileen Morrissey, RDH, says hygienists need to take a step back before attacking one another on online RDH forums.
Professional Communication
Online communication between hygienists doesn’t seem very polite


The headline of my column doesn’t sound very positive, and I normally strive to sound positive. I’ll make an exception today because I’m angry. Yes, I’ve read yet another one. Allow me to explain, and I hope you take my message with you into the new year.

I’m a member of more than a few internet subscriber groups for dental hygienists. Most of the time I lurk in these groups and observe the behavior of my colleagues. Not to spend much time reminiscing about the good old days, but I remember when AmyRDH.com, the pioneer of these groups, was the only show in town, and, to Amy Nieves’ credit, she maintained a class act.

I understand that many people post because it’s an opportunity to vent and receive useful feedback. I have no problem with that. What bothers me is the cyberbullying that takes place during some of these discussions. People’s posts are often taken out of context and receive snarky responses. Many times, postings are not taken out of context and still receive snarky responses.

Have you not fallen victim to this? I have, and I can tell you it’s like getting a knife to your gut. It is my belief that most RDHs go through their professional lives attempting to do the best that they can do while serving patients. So, when a hygienist posts to seek counsel and receives a snarky answer in return, it really bugs me.

I have personally talked the talk about doing the best that I can in the working environment that I have. I have preached this philosophy in my column and I have shared it with the students I teach. I’ve also received the occasional letter from RDH colleagues who have pounced on me for said philosophy.

There seems to be a plethora of self-righteousness looming in some of these groups.

For anyone who might be quick to criticize, I’m asking you to think before you lash out next time. Since you’re not walking in the other person’s shoes, it is unfair to disparage. There seems to be a plethora of self-righteousness looming in some of these groups. I applaud the new subscriber groups that are requesting positive input only. Good for them! Don’t we have enough negativity in our lives daily? We don’t need to open Facebook and read hygienists bashing one another.

Those who have been pounced upon may be grappling regularly with the balancing act we call dental hygiene. Things may not be perfect. We may have communicated with our bosses, and recognized that some things will take time to change, or in fact may not change at all. We may be reeling from accusations regarding the lowering of our standards and the patients who will pay the price because of said lowering. Perhaps we’ve found solutions that allow us to face ourselves in the professional mirror, or we may need to sweat things out a little longer. Maybe that’s the explanation that the attackers don’t get to see, because it becomes very tiresome to endlessly defend ourselves.

It has been said that those who criticize may do so in an effort to elevate themselves. I applaud those of you who are angels of empathy and understand the meaning of “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” (Matthew 7:1.) The fact is, we may not know all the facts, so can we think about tapping the brakes on judgment? As Wayne Stiles said on Twitter, “The grace we freely claim for ourselves we should also extend to others.” To the accusers, I will extend this same grace because I don’t know the circumstances that incited you to lash out.

I do understand that some of you want only to emphasize the importance of maintaining the highest possible standards of dental hygiene care. Herein lies the slippery slope, as various scenarios come up that we could perceive as compromising our principles.

I’m leaving my pulpit now, but with one last request—until you have walked in other hygienists’ shoes, take a step back from your keyboard until you can share something helpful and uplifting. Let us try to see the good in our colleagues, and let our counsel be in a positive spirit. To 2018! Onward we go; it is in our hearts’ core.

EILEEN MORRISSEY,RDH, MS, is a practicing clinician, speaker, and writer. She is an adjunct dental hygiene faculty member at Rowan College at Burlington County. Eileen offers CE forums to doctors, hygienists, and their teams. Reach her at [email protected] or 609-259-8008. Visit her website at www.eileenmorrissey.com.