Our own special dental hygienist needs must be met to keep the motivation for our career alive. So many of us have been there; those days when you just don’t feel your hygiene heart is 100% in the game. What to do? Give yourself a two-week maximum to roll in lethargy, and then make a conscious choice to either love your career again, or find ways to evolve into something you do love. Everyone deserves to find happiness in their career and to become empowered by it.
The first step is self-evaluation. What part is not enthralling? Is it patient care? The particular demands of the office? The team? The equipment you use? Career choice in general? So very many issues could be blocking your enjoyment. With pen and paper take a few moments for self-reflection and write down the pros and cons of your career. Where do you want to go? Where have you been and has it worked for you? What truly gives you joy? What makes you angry and irritable? Be brutally honest in your assessment and dream big. Your career is exactly what you make it.
Is it the team? Possibly scheduling a meeting, and in the most positive, non-judgmental way, explain your position with your employer. Find the things that can be done to improve the situation. Offer suggestions, and see how you can help, and be helped. Some issues cannot be overcome; stay true to yourself and only compromise on the issues which do not damage your spirit, go against your ethics, or make you feel disrespected.
Purchase new instruments, equipment, loupes, light, whatever it takes to make you love your day. See what your office will pay for and know that you, too, need to invest money in your career. Anything you do to improve posture, reduce repetitive stress injuries, and add ease to your day, is worth it and adds longevity to your career.
Perhaps a new office environment is best for you; one where you can find value in your role. Sometimes no matter what you do, the fit will never be right and moving on will save pain and disappointment. See what areas of interest you have, perio, pedo, ortho, general, corporate, or private practice. All have something completely different to offer.
Got a product you just can’t live without? Perhaps you can be a sales representative for them and be a brand ambassador. It’s imperative to take charge of your career and lead it in the direction that decreases stress and increases happiness. We all deserve to love our days.
One thing about most hygienists is our love for learning. If you find yourself in a bit of a slump, it might be the perfect time to energize your career with a great continuing education course. Being surrounded by all the positivity of other like-minded professionals aiming to improve themselves and their work life is invigorating. Learn something new you can bring back to your workplace to re-energize your practice.
Take yourself out of your comfort zone and reimagine your career as you want it to be, which might not, perhaps, be as it is currently. Learn to do everything in your scope of practice according to your state’s dental practice act; perhaps you can learn laser therapy, or discover sleep medicine. If your office offers implants, then perhaps you want to be an implant coordinator. If your office (and state) allow Botox and filler treatments, you may find a new opportunity in scheduling and discussing treatment and filler for patients. The rise in clenching and grinding may offer you the responsibilities of TMJ specialist. Search for something new and exciting. Find a mentor whom you respect and admire and ask for insight and guidance.
Dental hygiene is an always expanding career opportunity. Nursing homes, memory care facilities, and other diverse-need agencies, all need their staff to be educated in oral health. Find an existing opportunity, or create your own, to fill this need in your community. Many towns have family health partnerships which offer dental care or have a need to begin a program offering dental education and care. Put yourself out there to find a niche that makes you want to wake up and run with your opportunity. Search for grants which may allow you to start your very own program.
Perhaps you have been thinking about an amazing product that will revolutionize the dental marketplace. Now is the time to move forward with your dreams and create the career you have always wanted and deserve. Too often we stand in our own way because of the fear of failure. Remind yourself you can do it, you can create positive change, and you do deserve to have the life you want. Take the plunge and truly assess what it is you need to be happy, then go for it. You are able, capable, and hygiene strong!