By Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
It’s that time of year when many new dental hygienists will be embarking on their new careers. Also, it’s that time of year when many of us veteran dental hygienists will attend graduation and promotion ceremonies and reflect back on our life experiences since we became dental hygienists.
Reflecting on my career, I believe that a great path for our future, both for new graduates and those of us with experience, can be presented with the five C’s - commitment, confidence, critique, community, and communication. The future should be focused on how we as dental hygienists can contribute value to society.
Commitment - Commitment means doing what we plan to do. If we keep our commitment in professional endeavors, we will continue to advance our programs. If we commit to working together as dental hygienists, we will become stronger and more unified as a profession.
Confidence - Confidence means having the courage to try. Those of us who have tried have failed many times, but when we believe in ourselves we know that the only thing these failures have really accomplished is to teach us more. Then we become more knowledgeable. With knowledge, there is strength. When we are strong, we believe in ourselves. With this confidence, we are better at working with others in the profession to advance our practices.
Critique - Always remember to do what we did in dental hygiene school. Critique everything, and always ask why, when, how, and what? Don’t ever stop questioning the information you receive. There is much value in this concept. Always realize that everyone has something to teach us and that although we have many constants in our lives, we also have many changes. The best way to improve life is to keep questioning art and science. Keep striving for improved solutions that are, in a nutshell, our future.
Community - Always strive to help the community. This may be as small as a community of patients or as large as a community service initiative. Dental hygienists are responsible for helping all in the community. As dental hygienists, we are community leaders. Also remember the importance of staying connected with the dental hygiene community. Professional socialization is necessary if we truly want to improve our practices. We need other dental hygienists to provide us with solutions, mentoring, and unification.
Communication - I kept the most important C for last. Without communication, we cease to be a civilization, and effective communication, as simple as it seems, is very difficult to accomplish. As dental hygienists, we must communicate our knowledge and skills to others, including patients, stakeholders, and other dental hygienists. A dental hygienist must be able to listen, collaborate, work with others, and most importantly, communicate effectively. To be an effective dental hygienist, it is always necessary to work with others for a common goal. Remember the importance of consistent, continued communication with other dental hygienists. The only true way we will evolve as a profession is to communicate.
Dental hygienists have tremendous power. We can improve our patients’ oral health, promote and implement community programs, and change lives through disease prevention. With power comes responsibility. Dental hygienists are responsible for being the primary promoters of oral health in our communities and society as a whole. So, remember the importance of working together as a profession to promote dental hygiene! RDH
CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS, is director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of “Dental Public Health Research” (www.pearsonhighered.com/educator), which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.