Speaking your mind: What restrains hygienists from networking with each other?

May 9, 2018
Carly Scala states a case for why it's important for hygienists to bridge generational gaps and other factors to successfully network with each other.

"At the end of the day, we just need to be open
and honest about what is going on in our profession."

By Carly Scala, RDH

In a time where nearly everything we know is thanks to television or smartphones, we have somehow lost our connection to each other. From generation to generation, the gap continues to widen. Why are seasoned workers leery about growing with technology, generally speaking? Why do many seem to think that those new in their field are asking for too much or think they already know it all?

In this high technology age, there is no doubt that all offices will be at least mostly (if not 100%) digital in my lifetime. For those hygienists currently in school, this is great news. To generalize an entire group, they are likely going to be able to adapt very well to any software that is thrown at their feet. On the other hand, seasoned hygienists are more likely to be resistant to change.

I can understand why. Change is scary.

Most of the communication I have with other hygienists is online or through texting, as I am the solo hygienist at my office. You would think that this would make it even harder for me to relate to other hygienists.

But I have no problem relating to … well, anyone. Here’s why.

It comes as a shock to no one that I am a know-it-all. If I speak my mind, I usually don’t let go when I know I am right. That being said, there is so much that I don’t know. Hygienists who have been practicing for 20 years or more absolutely have so much to teach me because I bet she or he has heard it all. On the other hand, a recent graduate may know of some new techniques and equipment that I am unaware of.

The reason I can resonate with all types of hygienists is because I am open to a debate, open to criticism, and sometimes even hoping to be wrong. It is much easier to talk to others when you try and remember as much as we think age, race, social status defines our relationships in the workforce.

At the end of the day, we just need to be open and honest about what is going on in our profession. Communication between generations and within one’s own generation is ideal. In my hometown, I don’t know any of the hygienists, and I would love to! The lack of communication is so prevalent sometimes in my state of West Virginia, but there are so many ways to exchange information and offer advice.

We use social media as a platform for saying what we want to say, and with a click of a button you can delete someone’s comment where they disagree with you. Take these debates to the streets, and you will be much more likely to create a conversation worth having without the need to bait people with “likes.”

It is up to us to be making those changes. If your coworker is struggling with a new software, offer to stay late and help her work with it. If another colleague feels like the new Queen Bee, let her know (in an adult, impassive, unaggressive way) that she is an equal partner in success—with other hygienists’ involvement too.

There is so much conversation about whether joining a national group is worthwhile for the price. To find the change you want in your profession, you have to give it a little gas. If you go to my Facebook page, it’s all teeth everything. Your local associations and components are there to help you. They work to lobby for you. No changes can be made without money, honestly, so your dues are going right back in to letting your profession help your state even more.

The idea that people only communicate with their fingers when they have perfectly good voices has baffled me. Dental hygienists have to be tired at the end of their day because of chatting with patients, difficult patients, etc. It becomes borderline exhausting sometimes.

The important thing to remember is that we need to stick together and find our voices. State dental hygiene associations, for example, have been trying to lobby for doctors to be unable to make hygienists clock out four out of eight hours. They continue lobbying efforts to let hygienists perform local anesthesia, and so much more.

In the end though, the discussion has to start with you.

Bring your colleagues out for dinner and drinks and just talk. Find your passions, in and out of dentistry. Learn from the knowledge you will gain through these conversations. Embrace having these types of communication. Even if you don’t agree with things they say, it’s important for both sides to understand. Otherwise, we will continue to erode the ever-shrinking band that holds the generations together.

Carly Scala, RDH, has been practicing for more than four years. Currently, she works full-time clinical hygiene in Parkersburg, WV, within a corporate setting as well as part-time in dental product sales and print/online publications nationally. Carly has been an ADHA member since graduating in 2014 and currently serves on the WVDHA Board. She can be contacted at [email protected].