Hands Sun

The benefits of volunteering in the summer as a dental hygienist

June 25, 2013

By Trish De Dios
June 26, 2013

Summer is in session! Summer is a fabulous time to become familiar with your passion to serve others with your newly obtained dental hygiene skills, while staying abreast of the dental health profession. You are now a health care professional with a plethora of knowledge and skills to offer a community, organization, or clinic. How will you put your expertise to good use this summer? How are you going to keep yourself proficient and savvy during the period between graduation and finding employment?

ADA seeks 750 dental team volunteers
Volunteering is not a choice; it's a responsibility

Volunteering for The Oral Cancer Foundation (OCF) has proved to be one of the most fulfilling and fruitful endeavors of my professional career. As is the nature of volunteer work, I do not receive any income for my efforts to spread awareness about oral cancer; my personal gain is access to the best resources, networks, and people in the dental field. The contacts I’ve made and experiences I’ve had while volunteering for OCF has proved invaluable in furthering my professional career.

Dental hygienists unite to protect young smiles

Looking back, I ask myself how volunteering became such a priority for me. From a busy student to a busy professional, there was always a valid excuse to not volunteer for something. Admittedly, I used to view volunteering more as an inconvenience to me rather than a learning experience. Reflectively, I appreciate the acquired skills I developed though volunteering, such as event planning, public speaking, time management, and interpersonal skills. I also had to learn to delegate, create committees, be a leader, and request accountability from team members.

There are countless organizations that welcome volunteers. I have some tips on how to pick the one that’s right for you.

  1. Pick a cause you believe in and find an organization with values and people that match you.
  2. Start small. Don’t attempt to change the organization from day one. Be a team player and learn from those around you and grow your contributions.
  3. Leave your comfort zone. Don’t be afraid to take on tasks you have never tried before. This is a great opportunity to learn new techniques or progress those that you feel need improvement.
  4. Create objectives, define what it is you wish to learn, and document what skills were required for the position as well as what skills were acquired during your experience. Logging this type of status report will be a reference for you as you build your resume.

Paying for dental care through volunteer opportunities

Working for free doesn’t usually appeal to millennials – especially new graduates who are eager for that first paycheck – but have you ever considered volunteering to be a catalyst to that first paycheck? One of the greatest benefits of volunteering is the chance to play up your resume, highlight these philanthropic experiences, and put yourself well on your way to developing your career.

Trish De Dios, RDH, graduated as president of her dental hygiene class in 2008. She currently works full-time clinically and is also a regional coordinator for The Oral Cancer Foundation. She can be contacted at [email protected].