Ask Kara RDH: Office Doesn’t Feel Like a Good Fit

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I recently moved and started working at an office last week. After taking the position, I realized that it is very unorganized and patient care is not their main focus. There is negativity in the office and I actually sometimes feel very uncomfortable with the situations I have been put in. I am too nice of a person and feel guilty for wanting to leave so soon. Any advice on this situation? Part of me tells me I should stay and try to help them, but the other part of me is telling me to run. I have only been working as a hygienist for one year, with not much experience, so any advice will help. Thanks!

I totally understand about feeling bad about leaving an office so soon after accepting a hygiene position. However, if you are uncomfortable, and your gut is telling you it might not be the best fit, your gut is probably right.

While there are some things you can help change or make better at an office, like organization, others are simply out of your control. Patient care standard is sometimes one of those things. Early in my dental hygiene career, I worked at an office where the doctor seemed to care more about the money coming in and the bottom line of the practice than the patients themselves. That didn’t sit well with me at all! No matter how many times I spoke with him and the office manager about my concerns, nothing changed. It actually created tension and made it more uncomfortable to work there.

While my experience having a chat, or several, with the office manager and doctor wasn’t productive, doesn’t mean it will be the same for you. It might not be a bad idea to express your concerns with the practice owner/doctor, and perhaps, office manager. If you choose to do this, be professional and positive, with the intent of wanting to add value to the practice and trying to make a positive change. Try to avoid heading into the conversation as if it was a chance to complain. I realize that sounds like common sense, but when things aren’t right, it’s easy to get caught up in emotions and give a laundry list of complaints.

Another thing I would recommend is making a pro and cons list; breakdown what it is about the office that makes it not the best fit, including positives too. It sounds like a really basic thing to do, but seeing it down on paper or screen, and getting all of your thoughts in one place, can help get a good look at the big picture. Then decide if those things in the cons list are changeable and if they are things you can live with. Also, ask yourself, do the pros outweigh the cons? Do keep in mind that all offices are going to have their own quirks. Seeing the bigger picture might help with what to do next.

With all this said, another option is giving it a few months and see if things change. However, if those things that make the office not the greatest fit don’t change, you need to be ready and willing to choose to move on, and not feel bad about it. In the meantime, it probably wouldn’t hurt to put your feelers out there and see if there are any other jobs available. Finding a new job can sometimes take some time, so you might not want to quit your current job until you have another one lined up.

Ultimately, you need to work in an office that shares the same standard in patient care as you do. You must feel you are ethically doing right for your patients, but also doing right for yourself. You don’t want a negative situation to lead to bitterness or becoming jaded about dental hygiene and the career you chose.

I wish you the best of luck!

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Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP
Kara Vavrosky, RDHEP, is a co-founder and the chief content officer of Today’s RDH, an independent educational publishing company for dental hygienists, encompassing articles, a podcast, virtual continuing education events, and self-study continuing education. Today’s RDH was launched in 2018 after Kara built her social media presence with her largest following on her Facebook page, Dental Hygiene with Kara RDH, which was created in 2013. An Oregon Institute of Technology graduate, Kara has a deep passion for spreading knowledge about the importance of oral health and its association with systemic health. Kara’s passion extends to helping other hygienists understand current protocols and evidence-based research – all with the goal of lifting dental hygienists and the dental hygiene profession. Kara was recognized in 2020 as one of the Top 100 Women in Media for her entrepreneurship as a co-founder of Today’s RDH. In 2022, she was recognized by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association for their Standout Seven Award in the Entrepreneur category. Kara lives in Vancouver, Washington, just outside Portland, Oregon, with her husband, Ben, and their four Chihuahuas. When she’s not working, Kara loves riding the Oregon Dunes on her quad, spoiling her Chihuahuas, and spending time with her close-knit family.