Feeling Blue: How Dental Hygienists Say Goodbye to Offices They Love

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Quitting your job is never easy, but it’s even more difficult to leave a position that you love. If you’re employed by an office that hasn’t met your expectations, even then the decision to leave can be difficult. However, in that case, it may lead to eventual relief.

On the other hand, if you’re part of a dental team with a compassionate dentist, great patients, and excellent benefits, it makes the decision to leave incredibly challenging. There are a multitude of reasons that a dental hygienist may be confronted by the difficult decision to leave an office that they love.

If you are faced with making such a decision here are five tips to doing it well.

1) Provide Plenty of Notice

Typically, most offices aim to have a full hygiene schedule six months in advance. With that being the norm within dentistry, providing your employer with just two weeks to replace your position will inevitably cause tension on the schedule. If it is available to you, provide your employer with ample notice about your departure.

By providing your employer with a generous amount of time prior to your departure, it will allow the office to better manage your current schedule. Additionally, the office will be able to better prepare for the upcoming changes associated with the future of the schedule. These small courtesies will certainly be appreciated.

2) Write a Heartfelt Resignation Letter

If you have loved working alongside the dentist, enjoyed the company of the team members, and adored your patients, then be sure to let them know it! There are established recommendations on the elements to include within your resignation letter such as the date of your anticipated last day and a simple rationale behind your departure.

However, the resignation letter can also serve as an opportunity to demonstrate gratitude, thankfulness, and appreciation relevant to the reasons for your adoration for the office. For some individuals, it may be easier to write your words of gratefulness in the resignation letter. This is due to the resignation process proving to be difficult and, in some cases, an emotional decision. In instances of heightened emotions, it can make delivering the message verbally a greater challenge.

In an effort to relieve the anxiety and concern that can be associated with resigning, it would be beneficial to include your thoughts in the resignation letter to ensure a clear and organized message.

3) Help Find Your Replacement

A great way to provide support to the dental office would be to assist in the process of hiring your replacement. This can be advantageous for the office, but also for you. By helping to find an admirable replacement for your position, you may find that it can provide a sense of relief. You may experience relief in knowing that your patients will be cared for and that your coworkers will be satisfied with your replacement.

A personal recommendation from within your network of dental hygienists would be ideal. However, if that’s not available, then actively participating in interviews for prospective hygienists would be valuable too. Furthermore, if it seems a temporary hygienist will be needed, then help create ways to encourage their success. Provide an organized operatory with easy-to-find supplies and a recognizable workflow to help in the transition of the new or temporary hygienist who follows your exit.

4) Write Thank You Cards

This is simply another way to demonstrate gratitude and contentment. In my experience, I wrote thank-you cards to my ten co-workers and the two doctors that I had worked alongside. It is a simple and kind gesture that can indicate to your team thankfulness for the time spent working together.

Departing from the patients in which you’ve established fond relationships can be one of the most significant challenges associated with quitting a dental office. In some cases, you may be inclined to write thank-you cards to patients as well. However, writing countless thank-you cards can be a daunting task, especially with endless “favorite patients.” If approved by your dentist or practice manager, opting to write simple notes in patient memos can serve to be beneficial for closure.

The memo could merely state or suggest “Say hello to Suzy from Mandy. Know that Mandy is loving the West Coast!” Providing the patient with a little insight can be favorable in that patients may be curious about their previous hygienist. The memo suggestion will encourage “breaking the ice” while also informing the patient the previous hygienist departed on good terms.

5) Stay in Touch

Staying in touch isn’t as easy as it sounds! A dental hygienist may experience regretful thoughts or even FOMO (fear of missing out) associated with his or her decision to quit. It may be related to no longer being a part of the beloved dental team or the stress associated with the transition to a new opportunity.

However, it is recommended that you stay in touch with your previous dental office and its team members because there is immense value in having a support system in the dental field. It can be reassuring to have the support of your previous dentist or coworkers as you move forward and transition into a new position. It is imperative to maintain relationships that provided you with happiness and perhaps mentorship. The mentorship you can receive from your previous employer or coworkers is a type of social support that is important for professional development for both career selection and advancement.1

As you grow into your new position, it is imperative to consider the road that led you there!

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  1. Kadivar, H. The importance of mentorship for success in family medicine. Annals of Family Medicine. 2010; 8(4), 374–375. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.1370/afm.1155