Wherever you practice any form of dental hygiene, you require some sort of licensure, certification, or permit. One thing that all states have in common is the requirement of having a specific total amount of continuing education credits (CEUs).
Some hygienists dread them, and others see it as a great opportunity to refresh themselves in topics or to dive into some new territory of the dental field. The profession continues to evolve whether you like it or not, so you might as well be learning about it. Of course, the CEUs are a benefit for you, but it is also a benefit for patients, community, dental hygiene students, or the population you work with.
Why only know the older material? There might be a better way or solution to a problem you experience in practice.
For those who dread researching and finding good CEU courses, you may want to consider some things prior to registering.
What Are You Looking For?
First, you should consider what your state requires, such as OSHA and infection control. Also, think about what you focus on in your work setting. Are you working in private practice or a public health setting? If you work in a clinician role, what population or specialty are you involved in? Orthodontics, perio, or pedo?
What are your interests? Think about the topics you are passionate about. There are tons of new, upcoming topics such as teledentistry, implants, or lasers.
Is there something in your professional life you want to change, fix, or improve upon? One great example is taking a local anesthesia refresher course on the different injections and pain management techniques.
Is the Class Doable?
Is this class at a level that will be a benefit for you? For example, if you have been practicing 15 years, I would not recommend taking an introductory course or something such as the basics of pharmacology.
Certain courses are centered toward different specialties, types of dental professionals (dentists, assistants, or hygienists), and experience levels. The same goes for hygienists who are just starting out. In this case, perhaps an advanced level course would not be appropriate before taking an intro course. This way, they can work their way up to get the most from the information.
You may also want to learn about the objectives of the course. Seeing these objectives may help your decision-making. Some CEUs do list certain requirements such as type of professional and recommended experience levels, which are helpful.
By no means am I telling you not to challenge yourself because I am doing that myself. I’m taking a more advanced course because I believe I am capable, and I think it will benefit my patients and students.
Not all courses have to be boring, sitting there in a large conference room. Try to consider what type of classes engage you? Some common layouts for courses are lecture, hands-on, or a mixture of the two.
Those aren’t the only options. Webinars are on the rise for busy professionals to log on and engage. Social media and websites for seminars and conferences always give updates on courses that will be offered.
Go back to your dental hygiene school. Poster sessions (formally known as table clinic) are a great way to meet again with classmates and faculty to see what the students are studying.
Additionally, many dental companies provide CE options such as lunch and learns, reps can visit your office, video chat in, online materials, and self-study.
Did you know that some states consider your research or teaching as CE credit? I would definitely recommend looking at your state’s dental practice act to see what your state considers as CE!
Research the Speakers
Many speakers have websites, or the course may have a speaker bio posted. They are there for you to get a glimpse of who the speaker is and how they work.
Just like a hotel or restaurant, you read the reviews. Would you go to a one-star hotel? No, you wouldn’t. On the other hand, people have their own personal opinions and biases, so you have to sift through them.
Location, location, location: Is the course close enough for your travels? You need to determine if it is worth the drive and what else may be necessary, such as an overnight hotel stay.
How many zeros and dollar signs? I totally get investing in yourself. So, if the course or seminar is worth it, do it! On the other hand, if you are going for a whole weekend, and only like a handful of courses, you may need to reevaluate the worth. Each person is different and sees worth differently.
In some cases, your employer may be paying for your courses. Some employers have the final say of courses, while some ask their employees what courses they are interested in.
Keep it Interesting
Mix things up. Don’t always take the same type of classes over and over. Not realizing it, you may be limiting yourself. If your practice does a lot of implant maintenance, it would make sense to continuously take similar courses. At the same time, though, you may not need to take more one to three courses over one to two years.
In larger conference settings, there are many opportunities for free or discounted courses. Many free (1 CE) courses I’ve seen take place on the exhibit floor and roughly are one hour long.
I just took a free one credit CE at a larger district conference. I was already attending the conference, and really didn’t need credit, but the course seemed interesting to me. So why not? Those one-credit courses are a no-harm, no-foul type of thing. They are short enough where you can get a small idea on the topic to see if you would like to dive deeper.
Sometimes, there are raffles or social media contests that give you a chance for free registration or some sort of good discount. I’ve seen free registration or a free hotel stay. I recommend following the seminars, speakers, or conference you normally attend to stay updated on contests and other discount opportunities.
Early bird registration is also a huge way to help your wallet out. Many conferences offer this several months before the actual event. It is usually cheaper than registering the month before or at the door.
Whether you enjoy getting CEUs or not, it’s part of the territory. We need them. A great way to make it less dreadful is doing it with your friends or office. Being strategic with your choices will also increase the chances of a more pleasant experience.
Attending courses gives you the opportunity to learn from others around you and be able to provide feedback so the course/speakers can continue to improve. Some courses may alter your perspective. You never know what kind of course may surprise you.