3 Tips for Dental Hygiene Graduates to Integrate into Private Practice Prepared

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Dental hygiene students are often taught the dental terminology and skills required to excel in their roles in the workplace. However, the focus from the learning environment into private practice may not be thoroughly reviewed or run through with students.

Upon leaving the front doors of a dental hygiene program, many new grads may leave with the fear of not knowing how to integrate into private practice. Some dental hygiene programs do not prepare the students with the real-world tools they will need to advance in their roles as new team members. Difficulty transitioning into their new roles without the correct preparation and guidance may lead to an early career management crisis or possibly regret in pursuing an occupation that can truly be rewarding.

Below are three tips for dental hygiene graduates to integrate into private practice prepared.

1) Experience the dental setting from the clinicians’ perspective

So, let’s talk about private practice. Many times, new grads haven’t had the opportunity to shadow or experience the dental setting from the clinicians’ perspective. This, in turn, may cause a lot of anxiety and stress before starting your first day of work, as everything is unexpected and new.

This may also be a barrier when applying for jobs, as you may be unsure what you are looking for, particularly hours, pay rate, and benefits. It is highly recommended that dental hygiene students or potential students explore the dental world before committing to such a demanding and fast-paced career. A great stepping stone to learning more about dental practice is shadowing and volunteering your time at local dental offices to learn more about private practice and the day-to-day systems.

This type of experience prepares you mentally, physically, and emotionally for the work environment you may potentially be embarking on. It gives you a glimpse into your potential daily activities within reason.

Not all practices operate the same, so it’s important to remember that these shadowing opportunities give you a cookie-cutter overview of what to expect in your future employment setting. The only reason I say cookie-cutter is because each office will have its own systems, software, instruments, and protocols, which will vary from practice to practice, apart from some basics such as infection control.

2) Self-advocate for success

What is self-advocacy? Self-advocacy includes the ability to express your feelings and thoughts. This, in turn, is a translation of your ‘deserve level’ as a professional. This is ever so important when looking for a job or interviewing at a potential practice. Health care professionals reserve the right to ensure the environment we are going to be working in is safe and healthy and promotes personal and professional growth.

As a new grad, exploring your options is vital in order to find the correct fit. Create a list of expectations for yourself and utilize this list to create some counter-questions for your interviewee.

Does the prospective employer offer benefits? How many clinical hours are required in a day? Is downtime paid for? How many patients are seen daily? Is there a production goal that must be met, and how does the office facilitate this goal?

As a high-producing clinician, it is imperative that we ask these questions to set ourselves up for success in order to deliver optimal care to our patients. Success doesn’t only equate to meeting production goals or finishing on time at the end of the day but can also be measured by satisfied patients, internal referrals, and limited cancellations.

All these elements are only met when clinicians can provide care with few to no limitations. Don’t hesitate to ask questions when new protocols are being implemented in the workplace that do not support you as a provider.

Speak with your boss or office lead about any discrepancies you notice that impact your role directly. Advocating for yourself at a job interview or a long-term job can benefit you in the long run and create a healthy environment for yourself.

3) Arrive prepared and on time 

Exploring the office a few days before your first day is always a great idea. Upon accepting the position, ask the practice owner or office manager if it’s possible to come in on your day off to set up your designated operatory. Not only will this allow you to get acquainted with your new team members, but it’ll also allow you to set up your room according to what works for you. This is super important for ergonomics and your well-being.

On your first day of work, ensuring you arrive on time and prepared is important. This includes arriving early by providing yourself ample time in the morning for your commute. Don’t make the mistake of arriving with only a few minutes to spare, as you may not be able to find a parking spot or get stuck in traffic.

You also want to make sure to be prepared with anything you may require for a successful day. This may include, but is not limited to, clean scrubs, loupes, notebooks with helpful tips/shortcuts, and a nutritious lunch or snack.

The office may have a designated individual to walk you through your first day or possibly a morning huddle that requires your presence. Arriving early and prepared leaves a good impression on your employer and decreases morning anxiety for yourself. Nothing is worse than a racing heart prior to seeing your first patient! You don’t want to look or feel overwhelmed on your first day due to a lack of preparation time.

A prepared individual always arrives with all hands on deck! This preparedness also ensures patients that they are meeting a consistent and confident practitioner, as you aren’t rummaging through drawers and cupboards during the appointment. This can come across as unprofessional and give off the energy that the patient is not the focus. In other words, set up your space for success and a smooth transition.

In Closing

I hope these small tips and words of encouragement will benefit you when looking for your ideal practice or analyzing your current workplace as the correct fit. As a new grad, don’t overwhelm yourself with the unknown. As a long-term clinician, don’t sell yourself short of basking in the joys of the profession. We don’t want you to drown in your career. We only want to see you rise and grow!

Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on high-quality education. Click here now.

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