Orange Nails

A real hygienist’s journal, part I: I’ve finally graduated! Now what?

June 25, 2013
Scottie just graduated from her dental hygiene program. Follow her path as she returns to her old welding job while she waits to take her board exam.

By Scottie Chapman
June 26, 2013

After spending almost every waking minute working toward a particular goal for two years, what happens when you finally reach the end of the road? This is my experience. Though some of the details may vary, I have a feeling it is not unique.

The last day of school was our last board patient screening session. As usual, it was a day of running full speed ahead. The last session flew by as any other session, but at the end of this session, it was time to “move out” of the place that had basically become my home for the past two years. As with any moving situation, I found myself surprised at how much stuff I had! I somehow managed to pack it all into my car, and then I headed straight to…

The nail salon! Our pinning ceremony started in a couple of hours and after two years of abiding by the No Nail Polish rule, it was time to celebrate with something bright and defiant. So I settled on a festive, sparkly orange.

How to interview for your first position as a dental hygienist

Something kind of like this

I had thought about our graduation pinning ceremony many times in the past year. I thought it would be extremely emotional and memorable. I think I was suffering from some sort of shell shock (or maybe it was the cold medicine I was on at the time), but it seemed like just another “thing” that our class was doing. I kept waiting for some inner explosion of relief and WOO HOO! – but it never came. I went home and went to bed early, as usual, thinking of how exciting it was that I could sleep in the next morning.

Lifelong learning through a hygienist's eyes

Wrong! Having become accustomed to waking up before the sun, I woke up at 6 a.m. in a panic thinking that I had overslept, school stuff whizzing through my brain. This happened for the following three mornings as well. I guess when your brain wiring has been running on something as dominant as a dental hygiene program for such a long time, it takes a while to reprogram. I am happy to say that, three weeks later, dental hygiene is only taking up about 50% of my conscious thoughts.

Monday morning found me back at the job I’ve been doing for the past 18 years, which turned into a summer job four years ago when I decided to go back to school. I had to laugh when I put on my old PPE: a heavy suede apron, heavy suede sleeves, a big respirator, safety glasses, ear plugs and a helmet. I then climbed up a ladder and started welding. I can’t say it was unpleasant. I look forward to the day that I feel as comfortable working in the mouth as I do working in a welding shop. I can hang out here for a little while, but I long to get to the next step – the practical board exam!

Stay tuned…

Scottie Chapman received her A.S. in Dental Hygiene from Diablo Valley College in 2013. Dental hygiene is her second career after spending 18 years as a metal worker, working as a mythbuster and a high school metal shop teacher.