Some Things Never Change

Oct. 11, 2013
I will celebrate 100 years of dental hygiene service in today's column. While so much has changed, the core has not.

by Eileen Morrissey, RDH, MS

SERVE: 1. Work for somebody else 2. Provide customers with goods 3. Be in armed force 4. Work as servant 5. Be used for something 6. Assist somebody in particular way 7. Have particular effect 8. Give somebody food or drink 9. Prepare and supply food 10. Assist during Mass or liturgy 11. Spend time in prison 12. Put ball or shuttlecock in play 13. Deliver legal document to somebody 14. Worship somebody or something 15. Bind rope to prevent fraying

The definition in the box above is from the dictionary on my software. The list is all-inclusive, and some are obviously not applicable to our profession. I italicized those that relate, but I kept my facetious nature under wraps (Nos. 4 and 11). I particularly like Nos. 6, 7, and 14 as pertaining to dental hygienists. These are timeless meanings that lend to our ethic of service. Yet there is so much more.

I will celebrate 100 years of dental hygiene service in today's column. While so much has changed, the core has not. In my time, I actually treated patients while not wearing gloves or protective barriers of any type. That seems like a lifetime ago. Theories on the etiology of periodontal disease have evolved further. Technology has moved forward in leaps and bounds. Diagnostic tools have been developed to help in our diagnosis and subsequent treatment of periodontal disease and caries using risk assessment. Prevention has expanded accordingly. It's all simply amazing.

What I believe about dental hygiene and the spirit of those who enter the profession is that 99% of us take on the commitment of a timeless dedication to serving others. This has not changed, nor will it. If you are a hygienist who became one for the wrong reasons, you will not last long. It's funny how things have a way of working out. Have you noticed? It's the old "What goes around, comes around."

Thankfully, those of us who give so much predominate. This work is not easy when you care. We forever juggle the balance of services that we wish to provide with the time constraints that contain us.


Other articles by Eileen Morrissey


Since we have established that most of us who enter dental hygiene serve unconditionally, I thought it would be fun to dedicate a portion of this column to the concept of POS, which stands for Positively Outrageous Service, a concept originated by author T. Scott Gross, and referenced in a book by the same title. POS is a service concept that can be applied to any industry. It defines totally random, unexpected, and outrageous service. (Note: POS can also be a bad thing.)

But in its purest and most well-intended form, it is the type of service that leaves the consumer (patient) astonished, gasping, and in complete and utter awe at what just transpired. It is the "walk the extra 25 miles" type of service that makes the patient talk up a particular event to others. The word-of-mouth power is phenomenal, as it describes service that comes directly from the heart and creative being. POS service is not intended for every consumer, every time. It happens when the spirit moves the server (i.e., hygienist) to do so. Being the dedicated servers that you are, you most likely will want to try POS if you have not done so already.

For the utterly horrendous, POS is the college-aged grocery store cashier who said to my 11-year-old daughter, who was carrying a live lobster we had just purchased, "I cannot believe you are going to kill and eat that poor thing…" (It goes without saying that there is no need to try this one.)

POS is Diane Lanuto, RDH, who schedules her 90-year-old patient just before lunch so that she can drive her home during lunch hour. (Mrs. Smith has to take a cab in for her continuing care appointments, and that is not easy on her pocketbook.) Diane knows this, and shows her POS heart of gold.

POS is the hygienist who, with her receptionist, goes outside in a snowstorm and helps push their patient who is stuck in snow so she can drive her car out of a snowbank.

POS is listening to the patient talk to his wife, who wants him to buy garlic cloves on his way home. He asks you if he can borrow a couple of dollars to comply with his wife's request. POS is when you happened to have gone grocery shopping at lunch, and you have garlic cloves sitting in your car trunk. You walk him out and present him with the garlic cloves. (This is my actual story!)

Are you getting the picture? These are service gestures that are one in a million. They are forever remembered and reiterated, and the gratitude comes back tenfold. The public relations ramification is a happy byproduct. Try it!

In a CE seminar I teach that emphasizes the importance of service, I will never forget a question from a hygienist named Meg. I had spent hours on the concept of 5-star dental hygiene service in a clinical and practice management approach toward "raising the bar." Meg Ulrich asked, "Eileen, are we in Camelot?"

I thought about that, and I later did some research. Camelot was a time where everyone lived to serve. King Arthur, the Knights of the Round Table, and all the goodhearted, hardworking people of the era lived to serve. It was a magical, surreal window in history. Well, why not?

To quote Richard Burton singing directly from the soundtrack of the musical on Broadway -- "…Don't let it be forgot, that once there was a spot, for one brief shining moment that was known as Camelot…" (Music, please, and thunderous ovations!)

Cheers to our next 100 years of dental hygiene service. Onward we go; it is in our hearts' core! RDH

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

More RDH Articles
Past RDH Issues