A New Dental Hygienist Shares Her Story of Staying True to Herself

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I am here to tell you a story, a story with a moral to it. I will tell you that moral from the outset, just to alleviate your anticipation a bit and hopefully spark a hint of interest in you. The moral of this story is: You are enough and don’t let anyone tell you otherwise, not even yourself.

I am a registered dental hygienist, still a fledgling professional, barely two years into my career. I work part-time at two private dental offices; two days at one office and one day at the other, a relatively common situation for professionals within this career path. An opportunity to add another day to my workweek came to my attention, and I decided to apply. This is where my story begins.

Even from the outset, I had a strange feeling from this doctor (whom I shall not name). He spoke expansively throughout my “interview,” barely letting me get a word in. He seemed the type who liked to hear himself speak, the type to speak mostly in platitudes, you know the type. However, I decided to move forward with the working interview. I wanted to give this office and this work team a chance, and of course, a chance to fatten up my wallet a bit appealed as well.

I came to the day of the working interview with a mostly optimistic outlook, with barely a flutter of butterflies in my stomach. It went smoothly, all things considered. It is always awkward accustoming oneself to new equipment and an unfamiliar computer system, but of course, I managed (we dental hygienists are resilient if anything). I worked well with the other doctor that worked in the office, not the one who had initially interviewed me, and accomplished my duties of prophylaxis, radiographs, perio-charting, and suggesting future dental treatment with nary a misstep.

At the end of the day, I was tired but tired in a good way that comes from a job well-done, at least from my point of view. I felt the day had gone smoothly. All my patients that day had left my chair smiling, and to me, that is the most important thing. To see a patient smiling when they leave, happy, having received the care they came for and needed, is the single most important thing to me. To witness a patient’s joy and comfort is what warms my heart, and keeps me going every single day.

A few nights later, I received an e-mail from the original doctor that interviewed me. I had sent him a text a few days earlier to inquire as to my compensation for the working interview, and he finally responded via e-mail. The e-mail contained a review of my performance during the working interview. My heart dropped, and I felt the blood drain from my face. As often happens to me with any rush of cortisol, my ears began to tingle. I dreaded opening the e-mail but longed to see what it said. I debated whether to wait until the next day to read it. In the end, my anticipation won. I had to see what he had to say about me, no matter if it ruined my night.

Upon reading the contents of the message, my heart once again took a plunge. It had been remarked upon by the team, the people that I thought I had worked so well with, no less, that the “frequency and volume” of my conversation was “high.” He even shared with me an anonymous review from one of my patient’s that day who overall was “very happy” with their dental experience, but commented the dental hygienist talked a lot.

Now, I completely understand that the doctor is running a business, and a chatty hygienist just didn’t fit into his business concept. I have no gripes against that. What I do have a gripe against is the fact he was essentially asking me to change a key element of myself, a part of my character that makes me, me. He was asking me to bottle my joy, box my happiness, contain the lightness of my being, and what? Offer the patient a watered-down version of myself, a mere shadow? Is this what working for this doctor would be like day by day, constantly reigning in my true self so I could fit into his business model? Impossible.

So, I am here to tell you that he is wrong. To those of you who have been in a similar situation, whether it be with a doctor or any other oppressive figure in your life, I am here to be the friend who knows what you have been through and supports you. You do not have to submit. You do not have to degrade yourself. Even if it costs you dearly, do not compromise your sense of self, your individuality, because you are amazing.

You are amazing at what you do. You have so many attributes that make you a competent, wonderful, amazing healthcare professional. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise; not the doctor, not the dental assistant, not your fellow dental hygienist, not your patient, and especially not yourself. Banish those feelings of self-doubt. If you saw yourself through my eyes, you would see something magnificent, awe-inspiring. I am here to tell you: You are enough.

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