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How to get noticed as a new dental hygienist

Sept. 24, 2013
Have you noticed that the job market is highly competitive at the moment? It’s a great idea to give some thought to how you can get noticed at work to ensure that you are valued for what you contribute to your dental practice.

By Kimberly Herrmann, RDH
September 26, 2013

Have you noticed that the job market is highly competitive at the moment? It’s a great idea to give some thought to how you can get noticed at work to ensure that you are valued for what you contribute to your dental practice.

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Surveys show there are three main things employers look for when deciding who to keep in their businesses: people who are positive, people who are versatile, and people who are always changing.

I was discussing with one of the dentists I work for just this week how so many people are fearful of change. Change is where all the excitement takes place! Change means growth, expansion, and becoming a better version of yourself.

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Being a new dental hygienist, you probably don’t currently possess clinical experience and speed. However, there are some very important attributes that you can deliver: consistency, thoroughness, and a positive attitude. There’s a worksheet I include in my book, Becoming a Clinical Asset, which will help you think and expand on what assets you truly do possess and should be confident in sharing with your workplace.

Think about how you can get noticed by your employer. Here are some of my suggestions, but feel free to let your mind expand on these and come up with more of your own.

  • Be prompt, always.
  • Be open, approachable, and teachable.
  • Show that you care about the practice. Some examples that would show this include: Keep your operatory spotless, take excellent care of the equipment you use, be meticulous with your prophies, periodontal procedures, and sealants, and take an interest in enlarging your capabilities, both professionally and personally.

You’ll want to get noticed by your coworkers also. Don’t shy away from communicating with them! To be an effective team, communication is a key component. The dental environment is busy and can be tedious. Look for ways you can assist your teammates: Lend a hand with any tasks you can, even if it means taking five or 10 minutes out of your lunch break or at the end of the day. The camaraderie that is built among the office staff is noticeable to patients, and it draws them to your practice like a magnet.

And, of course, think about how you can get noticed by your patients! My suggestions are to show a genuine interest in them. Ask a little bit about them and their lives each time you see them. You are building relationships with them. Show compassion as you are performing your dental hygiene duties. There is a way to be thorough, yet maintain a gentle touch. One of the most important things I emphasize is for you to keep your instruments freshly sharpened for each appointment. You will be more effective, and also faster. But do make sure to keep those sharp blades in touch with tooth structure, and not soft tissue. A sharp blade on soft tissue is uncomfortable.

Let your patients know that you care about the quality of your work! At the end of my prophies, I am famous for drying my patient’s teeth with air and scrutinizing the job I’ve done. I will laugh and tell the patient, “Well, your teeth look GREAT!”

They typically love hearing this. And then I will add, “You don’t mind if I admire my work, do you?” There’s more laughing, but more importantly, almost always at that point, my patient will say how much they appreciate the fact that I take pride in my work. Try it and see!

One of my favorite authors on the topic of leadership is John Maxwell. In a recent article, he states, “After more than forty years leading and mentoring people, I have come to the conclusion that responsibility is the most important ability that a person can possess. Nothing happens to advance our potential until we step up and say, ‘I am responsible.’ If you don’t take responsibility, you give up control of your life.”

This is so true! If you haven’t done so already, commit yourself to being responsible for you. And also, commit to working with a spirit of excellence. You will get noticed,and for all the right reasons!

Kimberly Herrmann, RDH, has been a practicing dental hygiene clinician for 27 years. She is a past alternate delegate to the ADHA, past president of the Mississippi DHA, and past president-elect of Southern Nevada Dental Hygienists’ Association. She currently serves as an examiner with CITA and is a member of the National Association of Professional Women. You can find more hygiene advice from Kimberly in her new book, Becoming a Clinical Asset, written to inspire new hygienists, outline real solutions to everyday challenges, and provide support along the way.