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Ask a dental assistant: ‘Unwanted’ assistant feels lost and confused

Aug. 18, 2020
This new column, "Ask a dental assistant," is open to any assistants who have concerns. They can reach out to a fellow assistant for advice with their dilemmas. How many of you can identify with our first question?

Send questions to [email protected].

QUESTION: The doctor I worked for passed away recently, so our office was closed. I have 32 years of dental assisting experience. Should I continue my career in dental or start something new that has benefits? So many offices have reduced their staff or have a full staff already. Is there a place for me? I feel so unwanted. I have all of the assisting certifications—CDA, MADAA, and EFDA. But I’m confused and lost right now. With my boss’s sudden death, I really miss everything so much. It’s been so hard losing him and the job, during a pandemic, all at the same time. I would love some guidance. Natalie (Kaweckyj of ADAA) helped me so much through the fellowship and mastership programs. Now I’m hoping someone can help me through this tough time.

ANSWER FROM TIJA HUNTER, CDA, EFDA: First of all, my heart aches for you. I can feel how devastated you are by this. You experienced the loss of your freedom, your job that you loved, your friends, neighbors, and coworkers as we all had to shut down and change with the times, and now this. I am so very sorry for your loss and I hope what few words I have to offer will give you some guidance.

You touched me so much when you said you feel “unwanted.” There is nothing farther from the truth my dear; you have so much to give, so much experience and compassion, and a professional skill set. Your credentials alone are impressive, and any office would be honored to have you on their team. I know if you stick with what you love, you’ll find a place that feels right.

As we get older, sometimes we may feel like the younger generation is nipping at our heels, that they are smarter and faster and can run circles around us. And yes, this is me speaking from my own (old age) experience. You have a great gift in your experience and how you interact with your patients, and that’s something that comes with time, and your expertise will always be needed, if not in the operatory, then beyond, helping to grow a new generation of compassionate assistants. The sky is the limit and you can do great things!

There is such a shortage of qualified assistants all over the nation, and although I can’t speak for your area in particular, I know you won’t have any trouble finding a job when you’re ready to do so. I can’t tell you if staying in dentistry is right for you; that’s a decision you’ll have to make for yourself. I do know that you still have something to give and our dental community needs you and our patients need you.

But you need to take time for you; to grieve, to gather your thoughts, and to muster your strength. You are strong, I believe more than you know, and you will conquer this with the same determination that got you where you are today. Our dental community sends you hugs and healing prayers.

If you have a question or concern for a fellow dental assistant, send it to [email protected]