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There is a light at the end of the tunnel. You can see it now as you are trudging towards graduation day. Currently, your biggest concern is: How will I complete this program? As the COVID-19 pandemic swept the globe, schools closed rapidly, displacing many students from their college campuses.
Rest assured, as colleges make alternate learning environments, you will eventually succeed in completing the program. During this time of uncertainty, I challenge you to take this period to place your “ducks in a row” so that you are readily prepared for what the dental world will deliver. Here is some advice on your upcoming future career:
1) One Last Push
I suspect that most of you have not yet taken your board exams. In this case, take this “extra” time to study. Create flashcards, buy study guides, or take online courses that will better prepare you for the tests that will ultimately determine when and if you are able to practice these skills professionally.
2) Work on Your Resume
Once you get the green light and are officially legally allowed to practice, you do not want to waste any time submitting resumes in what can be a competitive field. If you are unsure about how to skillfully create an appealing resume, many resources on the internet can guide you.
3) Have Faith
Your dream job will likely not be the first job you land. With that said, you also want to refrain from job jumping. Be patient and make a mental list of what you desire in an office. With every job that doesn’t work out, you will discover something you never realized was important to you before.
4) Learn to say No
One of the biggest mistakes I made early in my career was underappreciating myself and overestimating my ability. I was guilty of not setting realistic boundaries within my scheduling and too busy trying to look impressive to my boss by taking on a large workload. You, too, may be asked to accomplish an unrealistic work schedule by your boss. I urge you to discuss your scheduling mayhem with your boss and ask him or her to respect the appropriate amount of time desired for procedures performed by you. Do not attempt to push through in fear of losing your job. You will only create harm to your body and be of a disservice to your patients by doing so.
5) Practice Ergonomics
With fresh minds and bodies, it is challenging to fathom a future of living every day in pain. However, I promise you that your career (or health) will go south fast if you do not put you first. I cannot stress this enough. If I could change one thing about my career, I would have started practicing ergonomics from the very beginning. Buy equipment that will assist in your efforts, such as loupes, saddle chairs, and headlamps. Exercise outside of work to assist in keeping your body healthy and flexible. Yoga is wonderful for the dental professional.
6) Never Settle for Less
You may find a job where you are provided with the best of the best equipment, or you may find yourself in a position where it is necessary to purchase items to make your job more efficient. Most certainly, pitch your needs to your boss. If your requests are denied, though, I suggest that you purchase it yourself. Start a savings fund that will help supplement these needed supplies when they arise. I have purchased many things that I felt were pivotal in my efficacy as a dental hygienist.
7) Keep them Sharp
Hand fatigue is real, and it will spiral into an injury if appropriate measures are not taken. In hygiene school, instrument sharpening is merely touched on. In fact, I feel that the technique isn’t adequately covered. You may find yourself needing a refresher course, and I highly encourage you take one. Once your career starts, it becomes a challenge to find ample time to sharpen your instruments. Schedule cancellations are a great time for completing this task. If you find that sharpening isn’t your skill, you may want to investigate businesses that will do it for you. Whatever path you choose, keep those instruments sharp!
No one will understand you more when it comes to the woes and highs of your dental career than like-minded individuals. Connecting with local components will give you a foundation close to home. Attend the monthly meetings (often CEs are up for grabs) where you can affiliate with your local colleagues. Social media offers many groups that you can join so that you can connect with a larger database across the nation. Given the current circumstances, now is a great time to utilize video platforms such as Zoom, Facetime, and Skype. Interaction doesn’t always have to be in-person to be valuable. These groups offer educated opinions, ideas, and often stress relief. It’s comforting to know that someone else feels/experiences the same.
9) Attend Large Dental Conferences/Meetings Once a Year
Several times a year, large scale dental conferences are held across the nation, hosting thousands of dental professionals. These events are not only a great way to learn more about the resources available to your career but a fine excuse to take a tax-deductible trip. There are plenty of samples and valuable CEs up for grabs. Never stop learning!
Sometimes the dental career can be a little overwhelming but know that you are an important link in the health-care industry. Leave your frustrations at the door of your office and never take them home with you. Find your routine, respect your body, and have fun!
I commend your efforts and welcome you to the world of dentistry. Your career can bring many emotions, but it ultimately becomes what you make it. Make it about passion!