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Get ready: How dental hygienists can prepare for professional life after COVID-19

June 4, 2020
The pandemic is forcing many professionals to take some time away from the office. Myrna Carril, BS, RDH, shares tips for making the most of that time.

I recently was texting a friend of mine, Dianna, checking on her well-being during the pandemic. She is out of work and I have been furloughed. As texts were sent back and forth, it became clear that both of us felt depressed and anxious to a certain degree—understandably so during these times. She texted, “My new discovery is that I need to be ready, that’s my new thing. To stop worrying about what I want and to just focus on getting ready for whatever I’m given. It’s not so easy.”

I pondered what she said. Get ready. Getting ready takes mental toughness—having a mindset to plan for the future while circumstances are currently unclear. While things will turn around eventually in the marketplace and millions of people will get back to work, that time isn’t here yet. How can we get ready?

For starters, worry doesn’t improve any situation. It won’t change the outcome of your circumstance to the outcome you want. It’s a process to surrender the things you want and accept what you have. You may be wondering how to stop worrying. Focus on getting ready for whatever lies ahead, whether it’s going back to your previous job, or a complete career change. Although I have been furloughed, I did not want to lose valuable skills that I acquired while in the work field. I did not want to be of disservice to clients, colleagues or customers by being rusty when I came back, so I started improving my communication skills and professional development through various webinars. I then focused on webinars specific to my area of expertise, thus refining the knowledge I acquired and building upon it. If you are considering a complete career change, research the field you are interested in. Grab as much information as you can. Is there someone you know currently in that field? Reach out to them and pick their brain. Do you need to build your computer skills, improve on communication, or network with other professionals? There is no doubt that things will change upon going back to work after this pandemic. Let’s get ready.

Below are some suggestions to help you get started:

  • Update your resume. Whether you will be returning to your previous employer or changing careers, now is a great time to refine and polish your resume.
  • Expand on your education. There is a plethora of free CE courses available right now. Is there a specific interest you would like to know more about? OSHA? Implants? Sleep apnea? Seek out these topics and build upon your education.
  • Improve your communication skills. Whether in regard to the workplace or your personal relationships, it never hurts to work on communication. Click here for a great, concise article to get you started. 
  • Build your professional network. Browse through LinkedIn and connect with others in your profession. Research dental companies, distributors, and dealers and educate yourself on current news on their end of the market. Explore adha.com regularly. It will supply you with fresh ideas, career advice, and maybe even job opportunities. It will also keep you updated on latest developments in the profession.
  • Stay connected. Even though we must observe social distancing, you can stay in touch with colleagues and friends via Skype, Zoom, or other media outlets. A text is great, but actually seeing the other person will bring a smile to your face, boost encouragement, and motivate you to return to work.

“It’s not so easy,” was Dianna’s last text. She’s right! I’m grateful for her insight that indirectly challenged me to look inside myself, not at my current circumstances, and get to work. It won’t be easy to put one foot in front of the other. It won’t be easy to stay focused when depression or anxiety weighs you down with fear. The beauty of this stage is that we have the time to invest in professional development and to prepare ourselves for the inevitable changes that are coming. Even if the work you do now doesn’t result in the outcome you had in mind, the time and energy invested in yourself can help you give your best to others in different ways. This will help you feel confident for whatever lies ahead.  

Myrna Carril, BS, RDH, is a licensed hygienist with 20 years of experience. She’s used the past three years to focus on digital imaging specific to CBCT, cone beam computed tomography, and software training. She was part of the Wisdom Tooth Project through Oral Health America, providing dental hygiene education to senior citizens. A proud member of the ADHA for many years, she values prevention, research, and advances in technology in dental hygiene.