Tempted to Temp? 10 Ways to Prepare Yourself for the Best Day Possible

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Like life, temping is like a box of chocolates; you never know what you’re going to get. Well said, Forrest! At one point or another, you may consider taking on the challenge of temping for an office you’ve never been to, or maybe returning to one you’ve already graced with your awesome presence.

So, just how prepared are you? Do you pray to the dental gods above each time you temp, that there will be a vast array of hygiene instruments, lined up in orderly rows, as sharp as your Aunt Matilda’s tongue at the Christmas dinner table after too many dirty martinis? Do you kneel before the computer screen, surrendering your very soul to the patient schedule, that better be as gosh-darned perfect as brie and Cab-Sauv for dinner after a hard days work or you will just have to pull an exo on the very next person who walks in your prestigious path? Are you the type of hygiene queen that expects anything and everything be done for you because you aren’t part of the team and the whole practice should be bowing to you because you are doing them a monumental favor? Well, guess what? That attitude stinks as bad as Limburger, and that’s hard to beat!

Here are ten things you can do to prepare yourself for the best temp day possible:

1. Research the office.

Know the dentists’ names, read their bios and any areas of specialty they offer. Inquire about which Software program they use. Doctors will be impressed that you took the time to get to know them even before meeting them for the first time. They will probably respect you more because you showed the same regard to them. There may be questions you have regarding different procedures that are offered. Show interest, and ask questions.

2. Be courteous and respectful to the front desk.

Often unappreciated, overworked, and blamed for every schedule mishap, the front desk people need to know how much you appreciate them. This will go a long way to building a relationship between you and them, which pays off in spades in the long run. Do not complain about the schedule if it doesn’t meet your standards.

3. Do all you can to find things on your own before asking the assistants to cater to you.

Face it; dental assistants often work their hineys off. Being pulled this way and that all day, plus they may not be told ahead of time a temp hygienist is coming in, so are unprepared to serve our needs on top of their daily workload. Most dental assistants are very pleasant and love to help as much as possible, but that doesn’t mean we should expect them to be our own personal slave.

4. Sterilize your own instruments whenever possible.

Like I said above, assistants don’t always have the time, especially if the dentist is running behind, to make sure we are set up all pretty and perfect and still perform their own duties as expected. Do your best to manage on your own, and you will be called back time and time again, trust me!

5. Make payment arrangements and discuss salary expectations prior to accepting the job.

Nothing beats completing a busy work day, going to the office manager with your hand out, expecting a big juicy check, and then being told, ”Oh, we only pay once per month so you’ll have to wait.” Or, you quote your fee, only to have the dentist say he doesn’t even pay his most senior hygienist the absurd amount you request. Informed choices need to be made by all parties to a contract. Handling the tiny, and especially the big, details prior to the big temp day, will take the stress and guesswork out of what payday will look like and when.

6. If you have your own instruments, bring them.

BYOI. That is, bring-your-own-instruments. This will take the surprise out of possibly being supplied with scalers that wouldn’t remove calculus as good as your grandma’s long toenail. Nothing beats razor-sharp, ergonomic, perfectly-encased instruments meant just for you.

7. Treat every patient like you would if you saw them regularly.

Patients who are used to seeing the same hygienist every visit, but then are surprised with someone “new,” might not be happy about it at first. You may need to win them over with your warm personality and charm. Overly anxious patients will need comfort, stress-reduction, and patience, just like any other.Get to know a bit about your patient; hobbies, employment, family, etc. Then make a couple of notes in the chart for their regular hygienist, who maybe didn’t know that part about them. I can guarantee he or she will appreciate it for the patient’s next visit.

8. Ask the dentist how he wants recall exams handled, ahead of time.

Is there a protocol to follow? Maybe he doesn’t like being interrupted during a procedure, and there is a specific method he wants you to follow when you need an exam. Check before the beginning of the day, and you will become a favorite, fast.

9. Wear clean, modest scrubs and shoes.

Or show up in muddy crocks, stained scrub pants with prophy paste from the last patient you had at a different office… Yeah, see how far THAT gets you! Gross!

10. For heaven’s sake, SMILE!

It’s our calling card! Isn’t that what we should do for every patient, at every office, regardless of how our day started at home, or on the drive to the office? Yes, easier said than done, but try to make an effort. One patient at a time, one tooth at a time, smile and make your patients’ day that much brighter. We may be the only one that day to do so.

There are a few pointers to consider when working either as a short-term, long-term, or on-call temp for any office you contemplate working at. I’ve done my share of temp work over the years, and I’ve had to learn a lot. Pulling out my experience to share with you all, is the least I can do.

After all, to closely quote the famous actor when he was talking about how even intelligent people will make poor choices thereby rendering them not all that bright, to begin with, ”Stupid is as stupid does.” In other words, be an informed temp hygienist and go in with a great attitude. Everyone, including yourself, will appreciate it. You don’t have to go back if it wasn’t your cup of tea, but at least you will have given it your best, which is what we should always strive for. If you enjoyed the office and people, maybe even send a hand-written card or e-mail to the office manager to say so. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to return when you’re needed if your schedule provides for it. Be a great example for the rest of us out there.

Before you leave, check out the Today’s RDH self-study CE courses. All courses are peer-reviewed and non-sponsored to focus solely on high-quality education. Click here now.

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SEE ALSO: The Pros & Cons of Dental Temping: Is it for you?

DON’T MISS: The Complete Guide to Dental Temping for Beginners

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Corina Hartley, RDH
Corina Hartley, RDH, is a Canadian Durham College graduate from the province of Ontario. Practicing dental hygiene since 2006, she has experienced the challenges of commuting to big cities, working in remote areas, and temping at various offices with differing ethnic backgrounds. While her family will always be her first love, the dental world is certainly the field she is passionate about, and writing about it brings her immense joy. Corina has a unique ability to relax the most phobic patient and calm an irate one with a smile, an understanding attitude, and a special sense of humor. She enjoys really getting to the heart of the matter with everything she does in life, and this is demonstrated by her witty writing abilities. Corina’s biggest desire is to share life with as many people as possible through close-up experiences, storytelling, and simply just being present.