Professionalism in dentistry goes beyond a checklist of requirements. It includes exemplifying the profession’s values and serving as an all-star representative of your employer. Professionalism is the natural ability to deliver service that’s above and beyond, and includes the way you interact with team members, patients, and managers. This is absolutely important in the workplace because it shows that you not only care about your career, but also that you respect your peers. With the events of the last year, many professionals have seen a shift in professionalism in various arenas.
- The importance of professionalism. One reason professionalism is so important is because it’s an outward display of your attitude toward your position and employer. It’s a sign of trustworthiness, reliability, and accountability. A lack of professionalism suggests a lack of respect toward your employer, which can impact your ability to land that perfect opportunity in the future.
- Professionally dress the part. Like it or not, appearance plays a part in how others view you. What you say and do are first impression indicators, but how you look and act can be deal breakers. Appropriate dress, whether scrubs for clinical assistants or business attire for administrative assistants, clean and neat hair, and wearing a name tag and PPE appropriately goes a very long way.
- Communication skills a must. Nearly every profession requires employees to communicate with others through writing and face-to-face interactions. Verbal and nonverbal communication are both important, especially now with continuous wearing of masks.
- Personal and professional ethics. Being honest and ethical suggests professionalism and should come naturally. Part of being professional means that you abide by ethics in and out of the workplace. For most, experience builds ethical decision-making skills. Compliance with state and federal requirements is expected of dental assistants. This is a safety measure to protect you and your family, your team members, and the patients you serve.
- Calm in stressful situations. Every position has trying moments. True dental professionals can handle problems that crop up without causing a scene or complaining to team members. Everyone has troublesome days. Learn from yours so that the next time you’re faced with a similar situation it will be less of a struggle.
- Improve your professionalism. Even if you don’t have much experience with professionalism, there are steps you can take to improve. New professionals can brush up by finding a mentor. Everyone can use networking events to gain valuable experience and put their best foot forward. Events and conferences are great places to meet people and develop professionalism. These are also opportunities to observe how others behave in a professional setting.
Now that you’ve got the rundown of the importance of professionalism, you’re ready to put your best foot forward as you take your first interviews or improve in your current position. Remember to always practice professionalism inside and outside of the workplace. You never know who you may encounter—it just may be your next professional opportunity!
Natalie Kaweckyj, BA, LDA, CDA, CDPMA, COA, COMSA, CPFDA, CRFDA, MADAA, RF, is a licensed dental assistant from Minneapolis, and a two-time immediate past president and the first Master of the American Dental Assistants Association. As a busy clinician in public health dentistry and with almost 30 years in the profession, Kaweckyj shares her passion for dentistry by lecturing domestically and internationally, developing continuing education courses, and writing articles. She holds a BA in biology and psychology, all six of DANB’s certifications, and is an executive moderator for Dental Peeps Network. She is currently the vice president of the Professional Dental Assistant Education Foundation.