Upon graduation, I moved to a new area and had only been in the area for a short time, so I felt the best way to get to know the area and the offices available was to temp as a hygienist. In the year and a half that I worked as a temporary hygienist, I was able to see a great deal of the pros and cons associated with the position and wanted to share those with my fellow colleagues so that you could determine if temping may be a great option for you as well.
Benefits of Working as a Temporary Hygienist
I worked for a temping agency that would place me at different offices every day where needed. At each office, I got exposure to how different offices operate and gained knowledge with multiple dental software programs, equipment, and protocols. I experienced a variety of different X-ray machines and programs, automatic processors for X-rays, sterilization protocols, and a variety of scaling instruments, ultrasonic scaling machines, and air-polishers. This was a great way to become familiar with many things I had not previously worked with before. I was able to become more versatile, which many offices appreciate and look for when hiring, thus improving my resume.
In addition to gaining more experience, temping is also a great way to see the variety of dentists, staff, and offices in the area. After working at many offices, you find those things you prefer in an office. For example, I found that I prefer a conservative dentist, 1-hour appointments minimum for each patient, a smaller practice, and an office not dependent on “selling” dentistry, but focused on patient-centered care. Each of us are different in what we would like or expect in our dental office, so temping was a great way to get a feel for those offices you knew would not work for you or your work ethics and those that you would love to have as a permanent position.
Another benefit found with working as a temporary hygienist is building your confidence as a successful hygienist. Being right out of school in a new area, I was timid with my abilities to be the best I could be in my profession. However, being exposed to so many offices and having to be the “new person” almost every day helped me feel more confident in being able to adapt to my surroundings in each distinct and different office setting. You become more comfortable in introducing yourself to patients you don’t know every day and how to communicate with them in a temporary position. You find how to be adaptable, professional, and successful without losing your values and beliefs as a hygienist.
Lastly, a great benefit to temping is being able to have such a flexible schedule. For those of you who have other responsibilities, whether due to family or other obligations, working as a temporary hygienist allows you not to feel like you are required to work full-time. You have the flexibility to pick up days when you want for extra income. You also are free to decline work without penalty so you can take off when wanted for events, holidays, vacation, family, and more. I also enjoyed the fact that if I was sent to an office that I would prefer not to have to experience again, I could politely refuse to return if asked again.
Negatives of Working as a Temporary Hygienist
Although there are many benefits to working as a temporary hygienist, there are also a few drawbacks. You may gain a lot more experience using a variety of programs and equipment, however, there is a learning curve to overcome. Each day you may have to reacquaint yourself with their software and equipment; if you are unfamiliar, then you have to be shown, which can require quick learning abilities. Every office operates differently, whether it is how they do their charts or if they are electronic, and how patients are scheduled, checked out, etc. Therefore, it can be difficult to adapt accordingly. And unfortunately, if it’s hard for you to adapt then you may not be asked back to that office.
Although seeing many types of offices, dentists, and staff can be a benefit; you may find that you have to temp for a dentist or staff that you don’t see eye to eye on in regards to protocols for patient care. Sometimes you may be tested on your ethics as a dental hygienist by being asked to perform treatment in a manner you would not typically, use less than ideal equipment, or be given short appointment times for patients. This leaves you providing less than ideal patient care which goes against our code of ethics in dental hygiene.
Another downfall to temping as a hygienist is that you ultimately do not have a permanent dental home. Yes, there are good things about this flexibility as mentioned before, however, at some point, you may find yourself wanting something more regular and stable. There are no benefits like vacation pay, 401K, or bonus options available as a temporary hygienist unlike what you may receive when you find a permanent position in an office. You also don’t get to know your patients, build a relationship, nor see how you have improved their oral care. You can miss that feeling of continuity that you would get as a full-time hygienist being part of a permanent dental team.
Overall, the question you should ask yourself is if temping is right for you? If you are new to dental hygiene trying to determine what you want out of an office, have a limited schedule because maybe you are expecting, wanting just a couple days a week, or new to an area and want to see your options, then temping could be a great option for you. Just know that there are some drawbacks to the position, but if you can adapt, then doors may open up that you didn’t know were there. Granted, temping may not be for everyone. However, it was through temping I was able to find a great office I enjoy working for that shares the same values I do, which may have taken me years to find.