Amber Auger and Dr. Pam Maragliano-Muniz stress proper IC when they onboard someone.

Before your dental hygiene chair: Make the most of onboarding

May 22, 2024
Proper onboarding is a great way to help you build confidence when you join your new practice. Here's how you can make the most out of your onboarding experience.

Starting a new job can be challenging, whether you’re a new graduate or have decades of experience. Between the software, workflow, and team dynamics, there’s a lot to learn. Some practices throw you into the deep end, but those with a well-designed onboarding program can ensure success by building your confidence quickly. Here are some tips to make the most out of your onboarding experience.

Look for a well-designed onboarding program

At some practices, you may be directed to your instruments, given a quick tour, and then told to get to work. Not only does this approach feel overwhelming, but the confusion you feel can trickle down to your patients. To combat this confusion, a comprehensive onboarding process can prepare new employees to provide the highest level of patient care from the get-go.

What might such a process look like? Practices might onboard new hygienists by assigning them to a certified trainer for shoulder-to-shoulder training. During that time, they could have a hybrid learning experience—a combination of e-learning and hands-on opportunities that cover everything from the computer system to comprehensive treatment planning and growth and development opportunities. Onboarding that also includes a healthy dose of up-to-date science through continuing education classes can also bring everybody up to the cutting edge. 

Ask questions to build confidence

My advice to all new hygienists is to ask lots of questions—of your trainers, mentors, and colleagues. Many hygienists want to know how much time they get for each procedure. This time allotment will depend on the practice you join, and you may be pleasantly surprised that some practices allow hygienists to decide how long they need for a given procedure.

Other hygienists may be concerned about workflow or team dynamics; these questions can be addressed through hands-on training. For example, new hygienists could benefit from running a schedule alongside a colleague to get firsthand experience with everything from team relationships to approaching potentially difficult conversations.

Asking questions helps you build confidence. That confidence is not limited to clinical skills; you can also build your confidence by asking for help, navigating a brand-new team environment, and running your own schedule.

Take advantage of your network

Whether you’re at a small practice or a large organization, take advantage of your network. At Aspen Dental, there is an enormous network of hygienists, doctors, and other dental professionals to lean on. Be as intentional as you can about connecting with the hygienists around you, whether they’re down the street or across the country. By reaching out and building those relationships with people in your same position, you tap into one of the best possible learning experiences since we all learn better together. 

Onboarding is “need to have,” not “nice to have”

We hear too often about practices throwing hygienists into the deep end when they start their position, which doesn’t inspire much confidence in anything beyond your clinical skill. A comprehensive onboarding process helps hygienists build confidence and limits their unknowns.

Whether that process includes trainers, hybrid learning, or hands-on experiences, having a transition period that provides the room you need to adjust and get all your questions answered will best equip you to provide the highest quality patient care to everyone who sits in your hygiene chair.

Tayler Burnette, RDH, is the territory manager of hygiene support, South Carolina, at Aspen Dental. She has more than a decade of experience in the dental field and loves cultivating growth and development opportunities for hygienists.