Are you where you need to be?

June 1, 2005
Do you often wonder how you got to where you are? Looking back on my hygiene career, I have to say, “Wow!” I think the most important choice we can make for ourselves is choosing the right office.

Do you often wonder how you got to where you are? Looking back on my hygiene career, I have to say, “Wow!” I think the most important choice we can make for ourselves is choosing the right office. Over the years, I have found that a healthy dental team can make all the difference in the world. But how do you choose? Depending on what you’re seeking, it may be difficult attaining this goal.

From experience, I can certainly tell you nothing worthwhile comes easy. Why should it? Aren’t the things in life that we work so hard for always the ones we enjoy the most? This is what makes it so fun and exciting to find the best fit.

Before choosing, think about what makes you tick. Is it money? If it is, all I can say is find a good HMO practice. You will work your tail off and see at least two times the amount of patients you would normally see in a day.

I worked at a practice like this once. The opportunity lasted just one day. A 20-minute prophy appointment wasn’t for me. I want my patients to have the experience they deserve. Ironically, patients may not know the difference anyway, until they change practices. It is a tough world out there, where insurance companies try to make all the rules. When did they become doctors, knowing exactly what the patient needs?

Money will come; it always does.

Is it respect that makes you tick? If it is, make sure you work for someone that you can talk to ... I mean really talk to. Be open and honest with each other. I find it so rewarding when I can share the same vision with my employer. It is a feeling that goes through me like a bolt of lightning when the dentist and I just “click.” I love when I discuss treatment options with a patient, and then the doctor speaks the same words to the patient during the exam. The patient just kind of looks and smiles, probably thinking we rehearsed our lines during lunch.

Is it the toys? Gosh, I sure love the toys. One of my favorites would have to be digital radiography. I never imagined hygiene and computers would eventually go hand-in-hand. It doesn’t get much better than filling your entire monitor with a single bitewing and discussing it with the patient. Not only does this impress me, but also the patients are blown away. It also takes the guesswork out of recognizing interproximal decay, because it does that for you as well.

Did you ever think you could put a small light into someone’s mouth and detect decay? Well, now you can. Remember those explorers that just don’t have the sharp tips they once did? Forget about it! A tiny laser can now determine if those occlusal pits are just stained, or if there is a large lesion just beneath the enamel.

Is it the staff? They can either make it or break it for you. If you are not happy, or someone just continues to make your life miserable, move on. I can promise you there is something better out there, so grasp it! Let’s face it - you may be the one making someone crazy! This may be a good time to stop reading, and hug a loved one that puts up with you. Some of us type-A hygienists are pretty tough to take, but it is what makes us so good!

Is it the patients? Remember, they are there for the duration. Believe me, you are always going to have those patients’ names on the schedule that just make you groan. So, if you find yourself constantly begging the receptionist to schedule them with the other hygienist, maybe it is time to make a change.

Is it the quality of care given? This should not even be a question in your mind. Sometimes, finding an ethical office that actually provides a high standard of care can be a task. Being allowed to order whatever you need to make your job easier is quite a treat. Knowing you have the right tools can make all the difference in the world.

If someone asked me on graduation day, "Where do you see yourself in 10 years?" I would never have imagined the opportunities that I have had as a dental hygienist. My career has included a mixture of clinical hygiene, lecturing, and, last but not least, becoming a published author. In my variety-packed life, there is never a dull moment. The best advice I can give is to never ignore an open opportunity. Grasp life with a vengeance and live each day to the fullest, because when you shoot for the moon, you will always land on a star.

Carpe diem!

Shannon M. Nanne, RDH, has been practicing in Ohio since 1994 when she graduated from the University of Pittsburgh Dental School. She has held licenses to practice in Pennsylvania, as well as New Jersey and Colorado. She took on a position as a technical representative with Laclede, the makers of Biotene, in 1999.Shannon now works part-time as a dental hygienist and full-time as the speaker coordinator for Laclede, dedicating her time teaching health-care professionals ways to help patients cope with xerostomia. She lectures nationally to dentists, hygienists, pharmacists, and oncologists. She also speaks to support groups, hospitals, dental schools, and a few mother’s organizations that address oral care for children. Shannon also has published “A Patient’s Guide to Periodontal Disease.” This book is a guide to help colleagues discuss and educate patients about periodontal disease. Shannon welcomes questions or comments at [email protected].