Dental hygiene in a changing world: empowering, supporting, and developing your career

Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS, reports on a recent American Dental Hygienists’ Association workshop at which dental hygienists learned how to develop and capitalize their leadership skills in order to take advantage of new career opportunities so they can take their career to the next level.

Feb 1st, 2013
Clinical Fo

Developed by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), and supported by headline sponsors: Henry Schein Dental, Johnson & Johnson Healthcare Products; and corporate sponsors: Premier Dental, and Waterpik.

The profession of dental hygiene is rapidly evolving. In an effort to assist dental hygiene professionals, ADHA, with the support of corporate partners, created a phenomenal workshop entitled, Dental Hygiene in a Changing World: Empowering, Supporting & Developing Your Career.

This workshop was designed to assist dental hygienists in developing leadership skills and to prepare hygienists to use these new skills to navigate their changing professional landscape. Attendees learned how to develop and capitalize on their leadership skills in order to take advantage of new career opportunities, in order to take their career to the next level.

The attendees were mostly from 1981 to 2012 (graduation year), evenly divided by decade.* Ages ranged mostly from 20–60, again evenly divided by decade. More than half earned an Associate’s Degree, with about one-third holding a Bachelor’s Degree. Only 12% acquired a Master’s Degree. Seventy-five percent were actively working in a position that requires a dental hygiene license, most in general dental and group practices.

When asked why they were attending this workshop, there were a variety of reasons. Expanding opportunities beyond clinical private practice; guidance in obtaining advanced degrees; concern about the physical limitations of clinical dental hygiene practice; career shift to non-traditional careers, such as public health, research, or corporate; and other reasons were cited as impetuses for attending the workshop.

The Opening Session was A Look at the Current Landscape. It provided an overview of the current and changing landscape as well as "skill sets" essential for all dental hygiene professionals to improve their professional lives. The Keynote Presentation was Career Mapping, by Debra Bachman Zabloudil, CAE, FACHE of the Learning Studio. Debra explained that, similar to a business plan, career mapping includes a mission statement, goals and objectives, SWOT analysis, financial strategies, and action plans.

By exploring the attributes of successful dental hygienists around the country, the attendees can now apply those qualities to develop their own personal career map. Participants were able to chart their path of growth and development within their current and desired practice settings/roles today and into the future.

The first Panel Discussion was Career Paths for the Dental Hygiene Professional.

The panelists were: Kristen Esler, RDH, Regional Manager for Henry Schein; Mary Pat Burgess, RDH, MBA, Acting Oral Health Director at the Chicago Department of Public Health, Division of Oral Health; Christine Charles, RDH, BS, Director, Scientific and Professional Affairs, Global Consumer Healthcare Research, Development and Engineering, Johnson & Johnson Consumer and Personal Products Worldwide, Division of Johnson & Johnson Consumer Companies, Inc. responsible for Latin America and Asia-Pacific regions; Cynthia Gadbury-Amyot, MSDH, Ed.D, Professor & Associate Dean, and Professor and Director, Distance Education and Faculty Development, University of Missouri-Kansas City (UMKC), School of Dentistry; Tammi O. Byrd, RDH, is the CEO/Clinical Director of Health Promotion Specialists, a school-based dental hygiene program serving schools in South Carolina since June 2000; Shelby L. Kahl, RDH, owns and operates an integrative dental hygiene practice on the Front Range of Northern Colorado; and Ann Battrell, MSDH, ADHA Executive Director, Moderator.

Each of the panelists answered a series of questions focusing on “what they do” in their current role setting.

Left to right: Kristen Esler, RDH; Mary Pat Burgess, RDH, MBA; Christine Charles RDH, BS; Shelby L. Kahl, RDH; Tammi O. Byrd, RDH; Ann Battrell, MSDH; and Cynthia Gadbury-Amyot, MSDH, Ed.D.

This was followed by small table discussions on career paths. Participants had further discussions amongst their table mates where additional information was reviewed and discussed on the career path options in the specific table topic. This was followed by a Networking Luncheon. The Networking Luncheon provided the attendees the opportunity to network with others on a topic of their choice.

In the afternoon, there was a second Panel Discussion entitled Strategies for Achieving Your Career Goals.

The panelists answered a series of questions focusing on how they got to where they are today (education, research, etc); what were the “aha moments” and what they wish they would have known. Attendees had the opportunity to interact with panelists and ask questions.

There was a separate Student Track–Unleash Your Potential. Students discussed tangible ways to approach potential career opportunities, focusing on the skills needed when entering the workforce; interviewing; resume development; soft skills; how to make themselves marketable; and professional networking.

Hadeel M. Ayoub, RDH, MSDH (c) and Shelby L. Kahl, RDH

Small Table Discussions followed entitled Designing Your Own Career.

Attendees were guided through a process to begin designing their own career path. This directed exercise involved questions to be answered for development of a career road map, or instructions on writing a resume objective. Attendees were able to chart their path of growth and development within their current and desired practice settings/roles today and into the future.

This was followed by a wrap-up session, Putting it all Together. Attendees were able to reflect on what they have learned through the workshop earlier in the day.

Prior to the workshop, ADHA’s Central Office provided tours of the office. ADHA is located in the 444 building off of Michigan Avenue on 34th floor. If you are ever in Chicago, plan to stop by ADHA Central Office: 444 N. Michigan Ave, Suite 3400, Chicago, IL, YOUR central office!

All in all, the workshop presented a clear understanding of where the professional organization (ADHA) and experts envision the dental hygiene profession of the future. It provided a better understanding of the types of jobs available to dental hygienists, and opportunities for future employment or owning a business.

Most importantly, it provided an opportunity to network, mentor, or be mentored. Are you a member of ADHA?

“By joining ADHA, you become part of an organization committed to defining what it means to be a champion for oral health. Backed by the collective power of thousands of dental hygienists across the country, you’ll be supported and empowered to do your best work.”(1) The membership form is online.(2)

What are you waiting for? And, you do not want to miss the 100-year celebration of the profession, June 19-25, 2013, in Boston, MA.(3) As a Life Member and Past ADHA President, I am honored to be a part of such a dedicated and active professional organization. See you in Boston!

* Dental Hygiene in a Changing World Attendee Survey, ADHA.


Maria Perno Goldie, RDH, MS

To read previous RDH eVillage FOCUS articles by Maria Perno Goldie, go to articles.

To read more about the ADHA, click here.

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