Use Your Voice, Dental Hygienists!

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Let me ask you something: how many of you have ever felt like you do not have a voice in the workplace?

We hygienists often have a negative reputation as the “divas” of the dental office. This reputation is not always undeserved. I know for certain I am guilty of just being a straight-up brat once in a while, and I’m sure you are too. However, I do not think simply being a brat is the most common cause for earning a diva designation. If I’m being completely honest, I think the thing that will most often earn you a diva title is just that: being completely honest and using your voice.

In most of my social circles, I have a bit of a reputation for being honest. I try my hardest to live my life by the golden rule: treat others the way you want to be treated. Honesty is not an exception to the rule here for me; if you do not want my honest opinion, please do not ask me for my opinion at all. If you are unwilling to hear an honest answer to a question you have asked me, in my mind, there is no explanation other than you genuinely must not care about my response; you simply want to be told what you specifically want to hear. That is positively ridiculous to me! What good is my opinion to you if it is not honest? How does anything productive come from that type of interaction? Please don’t misunderstand me; I am not some truth-spouting, opinion-shouting witch. Being brutally honest to the point of being mean is not okay, nor is bullying in any capacity. That being said, consider how often you are honest in your own lives and how often you just smile and nod in fear of sparking controversy.

If you were to go onto any dental hygiene forum, blog, or social network site of your choosing at this very moment, I guarantee you would find at least one or two posts in which a hygienist is dissatisfied with their professional life in one way or another. Too often I read about hygienists who are feeling burnt out because something is not right and they do not know what to do. Well, friends, that is what I am here for. I am here to tell you to use your voice and take back your professional power.

Are your instruments so over-used they don’t even look like curettes anymore? Inquire about a budget for new equipment! Are tensions within your team dragging the entire office down? Mediate a staff meeting to work through any negative energy! Do you find yourself doing shoddy scaling because you simply don’t have the time you need to deliver proper care? Demand more treatment time! Are you being asked to cut corners and it makes you uncomfortable? Say so! These are just some examples of ways to use your voice as a hygienist, but there is a common theme amongst them. If you want to see a change in your professional life, then you must be your own advocate.

Self-advocacy is easier said than done. I understand that sometimes we find ourselves in situations in which it would be prudent to remain quiet and ride the waves as they come. I have been there, and it is not an easy place to be in. We all work hard for our pay, and sometimes the pay alone matters far more than the stressors associated with earning it. As you face situations that do not sit well with you, however, I implore you to wager the risks and the benefits of speaking up for yourself. If you will not do it for you, do it for your patients. They are trusting you with (and paying your employer for) their care and they expect nothing but the utmost quality.

How can you deliver that quality, how can you maintain the high standard expected of us as hygienists, if you feel you are being taken advantage of? Where would we be if the generations of hygienists that came before us had not advocated for a better future? Where might our profession go if we do not campaign for a better now? I encourage you to use your voice, dental hygienists!

SEE ALSO: 6 Surefire Ways to Get a Raise… But Only If You Deserve It!

DON’T MISS: 12 Ways to Improve the Professionalism of Your Dental Office

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Jillian Fitzgerald, RDH, BSDH
Born and raised in Southern New Jersey, Jillian Fitzgerald, RDH, BSDH, has always had an affinity for helping others. She first developed an interest in dental hygiene in 2008, when she began working after school as a receptionist in a small general dentistry practice. She was one of two high school students accepted into an accelerated dental hygiene curriculum at Camden County College, where she served as the Vice President of the Student American Dental Hygienist Association. She was granted her Associates in Applied Sciences in Dental Hygiene in 2012. With a constant passion for furthering her education, Jillian then obtained an Associate's in Art and a Bachelor's of Applied Sciences in Dental Hygiene from St. Petersburg College in 2015.

Jillian is an active member of the ADHA. In both her personal and professional life, she always treats others the way she would like to be treated: with kindness and respect. She genuinely loves her profession, and it shows in her sunny and gentle disposition. She wholeheartedly believes that laughter is the best medicine, and many of her formerly phobic patients would agree.

In her spare time, Jillian likes exploring the city of Philadelphia, trying new restaurants, frequenting the farmer's market, and reading. She currently resides in Collingswood, NJ.