Editor’s Note: Information about COVID-19 is changing on a daily, sometimes hourly, basis. We have made every attempt to ensure this article is up-to-date at the time of publication, but with the rapid changes occurring, some information may have changed since publication. Please visit https://www.coronavirus.
During this COVID-19 crisis, I am sitting at home wondering when I will be able to work again since my office made the decision to close its doors for the next few weeks. By now, many other hygienists are sitting at home wondering the same thing, worrying about how to pay bills, and feeling uncertain about their dental hygiene future, both immediate and long-term. We chose a career that requires us to clinically treat our patients.
There is no work-at-home option for the clinical dental hygienist. This realization has me brainstorming about how we can stay focused during this time, find healthy outlets for both personal and financial gain, and begin to plan for a future for dental hygiene in a way that offers expanded professional opportunities.
So while we are spending time at home in isolation, we can find ways to create both personally and professionally in ways that will not only help us during this crisis but also drive us toward healthier relationships both personally and professionally as well as new non-clinical opportunities in our professional lives.
Turn Uncertainty into Creativity
Being at home for an extended period without an exterior outlet can cause feelings of anxiety, boredom, and frustration. Uncertainty about how long this self-isolation will last can be turned into an opportunity for creativity within the household. Let’s face it, being stuck with our family for hours, days, or even weeks might seem a bit stressful.
For your personal life, this time gives us the opportunity to bond by having more conversations with the family members in your home. For example, my two college kids have found themselves home for the rest of the semester with no ability to work and socialize with friends. We are using this time to discuss current events, express our feelings, binge Netflix, and make time to sit outside with our dogs just enjoying moments that might otherwise go unnoticed.
Because of technology such as smartphones, streaming services, and video games, having face-to-face conversation is rare in our households, which is why we should take advantage and make closer connections a priority.
Thankfully, we do have access to technology that allows us to stay in touch with friends and family outside of the home. Browsing the web and connecting through social media is a way to reach the outside world every day without leaving home. Using Facetime, Skype, and Facebook video allow us to keep in touch with friends and family outside the home in a safe way. Lately, I have been watching friends through Facebook Live videos and Snapchat stories, both of which help me feel closer to them.
One creative way that I have found to use social media is through a Facebook group that I created for friends called Strength in Sisterhood. We post inspiring thoughts, daily check-ins to say hello, and post-workout suggestions from YouTube. We just generally stay connected in a way that can temporarily escape the COVID-19 worries, because positive self-care is important for health and well-being.
Being home for a while might reignite a love for dental hygiene that you have lost. It might also ignite a curiosity for non-clinical options for your future because clinical practice has proven to us that there is no work-from-home option. Whether igniting or reigniting passions, we can find resources online about applying for public health dental hygiene licensure, searching baccalaureate programs for dental hygienists for future opportunities, taking online CEs, starting a blog or podcast, or joining/forming an online forum of local dental hygiene friends and colleagues in order to network.
If being away from your patients finds you longing to be chairside with a scaler in hand, consider using this opportunity to advance your qualifications. For example, my home state of Pennsylvania offers an additional license called the Public Health Dental Hygiene Practitioner. Many states offer similar additional licensure, which would increase opportunities for the hygienist who loves clinical practice.
If this time away from the office has you considering professional options away from chairside, consider using this time to search baccalaureate programs if you do not already have one. For me, my journey toward non-clinical opportunities started in 2018. After practicing for 30 years, I started wondering how long I could keep practicing clinically without the physical pain that has afflicted many of my colleagues.
While I knew that I had options for a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene, I chose to pursue a degree in corporate communications to use as a strong complement to my three decades of clinical practice. Now is a great time to consider what might complement your own clinical practice and offer you professional roles that do not limit you to being in an office every day.
Because we hold professional licensure, we are required to complete continuing education hours. This time in self-isolation is a great time to take online CE courses, both through articles and webinars that are sometimes valid for live course requirements. Use this time to review what you know and add new information that might also reignite your dental hygiene passions.
If you like writing, consider writing a blog to not only pass the time but also keep your mind focused on your future endeavors. Maybe one of your writings will inspire you to submit it to an online publication as it did for me. If you are a natural communicator, consider starting a podcast using your smartphone or forming an online forum on for local dental professionals such as using the Facebook groups service.
If starting a new blog or group is not something that connects, considering joining a group or reading some online blogs that will not only inspire you professionally but remind you that you are not alone in this unsettling time.
Professional networking can happen inside the home by creating or enhancing a LinkedIn account because the best way to find new opportunities is to connect with other professionals. A few weeks ago, when I was discussing my vision for non-clinical opportunities, a former hygiene instructor said, “Network, network, network!”
A New Normal
This global pandemic has forced us to stop and think about not only the current circumstances but also our direction forward as dental hygiene providers. Because of this current COVID-19 outbreak, we may find ourselves in uncharted territory as healthcare providers because of increased risks and updated infection control training and education in the future.
Although these changes may be disheartening, I invite you to take these weeks to join with me to journey toward a new normal that, instead of being frightening, is filled with exciting opportunities.
Be well, my friends!