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Light At The End Of The Tunnel

Ask a dental assistant: DA discouraged following dual layoffs

Sept. 23, 2020
This dental assistant gave up another position to become an expanded functions assistant, yet was laid off from two practices. What went wrong, and what can she do?

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 this assistant's dilemma? Send your questions to [email protected], and it will be forwarded to an assistant to answer.

QUESTION: At the age of 32, I recently graduated from an accredited school as an expanded functions assistant. I left another job where I’d worked for nearly 12 years to do this. I started my first dental job at an office and worked there for two months before I was let go. The office manager told me I was let go because the doctor or hygienist would not work with me, but she wasn’t sure why. I found another job at a pediatric office, but again, I was let go. And again, I’m not sure why. I was just told after working there for six weeks that I wasn’t a good fit, I had messed up on a chart, and that my bitewings weren’t the best. I tried really hard in these offices and I even went home and studied so I was always prepared. I got along with the staff and I smiled at the patients no matter what. I’m feeling really discouraged and lost right now. I would love to hear some advice. Thank you.

ANSWER FROM TIJA HUNTER, EFDA, CDA, editor of Dental Assisting Digest:
First of all, don’t beat yourself up. Too many times a dental office will hire someone new to the profession when what they really want is someone with a lot of experience. That’s not your problem; it’s theirs. I feel safe saying that it took me six months in the same office to feel comfortable and confident in what I was doing, so it takes time. I don’t think you’ve been given the time that you need to develop your skills.

Don’t give up! There is a dental home out there for you, you just haven’t found it yet. A good office will take the time to work with you and train you properly. We have an excellent assistant in my office right now. But for the first six months my boss came to me every day and said, “You have to get rid of her.” I kept saying no, we need to give her time. And guess what? She is now his right-hand person and he wouldn’t want to do dentistry without her.

So again, stop beating yourself up. Those offices did not recognize that you’re a good assistant, and you are a good assistant. Take a deep breath and you will find the perfect job. When you go on interviews, make sure they understand that you are still new even though you have a little bit of experience. I have faith in you, and I think that you’re going to be just fine. Please let me know.

Read the first "Ask an Assistant" here. We welcome any question or concern. The important thing to remember is that you're not alone. Send it to [email protected]