Ask Kara RDH: Should I Stay at My Current Office or Move On?

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I’m a new grad. When I first was hired, my employer promised me 3-4 days a week, if not more. There are currently two hygienists, and they hired me as the third. I was filling in for a maternity leave, but since the office was expanding, he was going to keep me. Now that the other hygienist is back from maternity leave, he told me since he has a certain amount of chairs open, he’s going to pick the better hygienists to fill the first two chairs. He said obviously I was not one of the better hygienists. Now I will only be working one day a week since I am not “the best.” He also said I am not fast enough with finishing a new patient in one hour which includes exam, FMX, charting, and treatment planning all in one visit. I also missed a little piece of calculus on one patient and a little stain on another. He brought it up as if it’s the end of the world. He also brought up that I didn’t open up contacts on a radiograph even though I explained to him that the patient has overlapped and crowded teeth (he could see himself during the exam too). I am just overwhelmed and don’t feel like I am a good hygienist. It is wearing me down, and I’m not happy in being there. Should I stay or should I go?

I have learned from experience that being promised certain things, then the doctor not delivering on those promises, is a big red flag. I’m going to assume that you took this job because you needed 3-4 days a week. If you’re not getting that, it may be time to look for another office that can fulfill this need.

About the criticisms: my question would be, was it constructive criticism or was more it along the lines of belittlement? Does the doctor do the same to the other two hygienists or are you being singled out? If you are being singled out for mistakes that the other hygienists get away with, I question if it’s truly constructive criticism. I don’t think anyone should be making you feel like you aren’t a good hygienist, however, really take a step back and question if the doctor is trying to help you become even better or just making you feel bad. No matter how long you have been a hygienist, we all make mistakes like not opening contacts or leaving a piece of calculus or stain. Again, pointing this out as constructive criticism is one thing, but anything else is uncalled for.

If this office is wearing you down and making you unhappy, it doesn’t sound like it is your “forever office.” It is ultimately your decision, but I always encourage finding an office that makes you love what you do.

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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.