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 day’s work, or you will just have to pull an ego on the very next person who walks in your prestigious path? Are you the type of hygiene queen who expects anything and everything to 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!

Below are ten things you can do to prepare yourself for the best temp day possible.

1. Research the office

Know the office’s team members’ names, read their bios, and any areas of specialty the office offers. 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 the 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 team needs 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.

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

Let’s face it: Dental assistants often work their hineys off. Being pulled this way and that all day, they may not be told ahead of time a temp hygienist is coming in, so they could be 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 servants.

4. Sterilize your own instruments and help out whenever possible

As I said above, assistants don’t always have the time, especially if the dentist is running behind, to ensure we are all perfectly set up and still perform their 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 overly high 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 well 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

Get to know a bit about your patient, such as hobbies, family, or recent or planned vacations Then, make a couple of notes in the chart (if the software has an appropriate place for that info) for their regular hygienist, who maybe didn’t know that part about them. I can guarantee they will appreciate it for the patient’s next visit.

Also, sometimes, patients aren’t informed about not seeing their regular hygienist. If this happens, 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.

8. Ask the dentist how they want recall exams handled ahead of time

Is there a protocol to follow? Maybe the dentist doesn’t like being interrupted during a procedure, and there is a specific method they want you to follow when you are ready for an exam. Check at the beginning of the day, and you will become a favorite fast.

9. Wear clean scrubs and shoes

Or show up in muddy crocks, dirty scrub pants with prophy paste from the last patient you had at a different office… Probably not the best idea. As licensed health care providers, professionalism goes a long way.

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, it’s 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.

In Closing

There are a few pointers to consider when working 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.

To quote Forrest Gump 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 handwritten card or email to the office manager to say so. Hopefully, there will be an opportunity to return when 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.