So you’re a dental hygienist, huh? Yes, yes I am. I am more than that though. Personally, I have goals outside the clinical setting. (And that’s ok if you have no desire to leave the clinic setting too). I hope to one day be an educator or work for a dental company, or possibly be a midlevel dental therapist, if legislation is approved.
There’s a lot of opportunities inside and outside of the clinic. As a hygienist, there are many roads we can take including opportunities as a researcher, an advocate, educator, in administration, or as a manager. You also can possess multiple roles at a time. You are not confined to one sector of the profession. Whatever you wish to do within or outside the clinical setting, you’ve got to figure out what the next steps are to obtain that goal.
What I hope for readers to get out of this article is what steps I had to take to continue moving forward toward some of my future goals. Through my experience, I hope I can help others establish ideas on what steps are needed towards their own goals. As I said, my goal is to become an educator or something around those lines. The first step was to pinpointing my goals, which led me to the decision to further my education so that I can attain those goals.
I graduated from hygiene school in 2017. During that time, I started my first hygiene job and settled myself in. I began to research which direction I could take towards my bachelor’s degree. Would it be health management (more geared towards the business side) or health science? If you are anything like me, you aren’t the biggest fan of anything to do with math, so I tried to find the path with little or no need for a calculator. Six months after graduating, here I was back in a classroom. In the area where I live, there really isn’t an option for a bachelors in dental hygiene, so I looked towards the health route. I also preferred to do as much as I could completely online.
My first semester back was the spring of 2018; I took about three classes. All were online except one class I had to physically go to once per month, which wasn’t bad at all. This was also the time I realized I needed more credits to graduate, so I added a minor in communications. I thought communications was a great fit because that’s what we do as dental hygienists each and every day; we talk to dental professionals and patients. It was also a plus that this minor was completely online. I was able to work around my job, which was a big help too. I took a few online courses during the summer and winter session just to get them over with. I am also not saying you have to take a million classes at a time or take classes in the summer or winter session, this was my path, and I wanted to get my degree in one year, so that’s what I did. You can take as many or as little classes as you want at a time; you can take 1-2 part-time or go full throttle with 4-5 classes.
I have also noticed during my year journey towards my bachelors, that many courses are very similar to the dental hygiene courses in my program. For example, I took a community health course for my bachelors, which possessed the same concepts as community oral health in dental hygiene school. I was able to apply my previous dental hygiene knowledge to my bachelor’s degree material, which was actually very easy. I saw it as an advantage. Yes, at times it was slightly repetitive with materials, but that set me up to be more successful in the courses.
There were numerous occasions I incorporated my dental hygiene education into projects and homework for this degree. I also wanted to connect my health degree to topics involving oral health. One example was when I created a periodontal health program for my bachelor’s program planning course last semester. I was also able to implement a similar program involving the health effects of vaping in high school-aged students.
I took 4-5 classes last fall and this spring. I know what you are thinking, you’re crazy. You see, I felt I was still in school mode; it’s been nonstop since forever. I only took six months off, but I’m finishing up, and boom I’m done this May! You may ask, what’s next Kate? Well, some time off. If I ever considered getting a masters degree, which I have, it’s going be a year off first.
In a few months, there will be some additional credentials to my name, which is something everyone can be proud of as a reminder of our individual goals.