On a weekly basis, I am contacted by hygienists across the country who are considering leaving clinical dental hygiene. They believe that clinical work will never be fulfilling. For a brief time I shared that belief, because I was part of the wrong team. I was once humiliated in an office meeting because I was too energetic, overeducated, and recommended periodontal therapy on 5 mm bleeding pockets. I stayed in that office for two years after that meeting because I felt stuck. I thought that my friendly patients, the commute, and the compensation could not be matched elsewhere, and that the perfect office didn’t exist ... until I woke up one day to see how unhappy I was compromising my ethical standards and how it was impacting all aspects of my life.
I discovered the importance of mindset. For example, if we go into an environment with the mindset that others will try to discredit us, we can always find evidence to support that thought. Instead, if we go into every situation with a neutral mindset, other people’s actions become simply facts that have no control over our emotions. This new mindset has changed my life in so many ways. I have been known as someone who wears my emotions on my sleeve, but now I understand how to protect my thought life to prevent every situation becoming about me. My thinking changed from people being for me or against me to recognizing that people choose to behave in different ways and their actions cannot negatively impact me if I don’t let them.
When we work in the fast-paced environment of a dental office, we need to understand how to work best with one another. Through my experience in consulting, I have found that employees usually quit bosses, not jobs. Every interaction has the ability to empower an employee or peer or discourage them. If the office leadership creates a strong foundation of communication, teamwork, and celebration for team goals that are met, the environment changes. We cannot control every situation to make them all positive, but we can control how we react to situations. We can always control our attitudes and our efforts.
During my own journey to create a career I love, I have found the importance of uprooting past experiences that inhibited me from experiencing every day in a neutral space. I have been employed by bosses who were great people but terrible leaders. They didn’t know how to effectively communicate and unintentionally turned employees against one another. It was that poor environment that I wanted to be out of, not the actual clinical environment.
I now practice clinical hygiene in an environment that I love! The dentist I work with is not the owner of the practice, but she values me as if she were. We both bring different perspectives to clinical cases and discuss our differences respectfully with each other. When I did the self-work to understand what I wanted from each clinical day, I was able to find this work environment. I let go of everything I could not control and focused on the things I could control—my attitude and effort. Every day I show up and give my best and fight the urge to imagine that someone doesn’t like me or I am not good enough. The most important factor in the success of my clinical career has been my mindset.
I encourage you to find an office that will celebrate your strengths.
Amber Auger, RDH, MPH, is a practicing dental hygienist and clinical innovations implementation specialist. With 14 years of experience in the dental industry, Auger works with practices to provide customized protocols, to refocus on the patient experience, and to utilize systemic approaches to periodontal therapy. She is a regular contributor to RDH magazine, a featured author for DentistryIQ, and host of #AskAmberRDH. Auger also provides preventive services abroad yearly and is always willing to have dental professionals join her team. She can be reached at [email protected].