Throughout all the chatter in journals, magazines, on-line groups and meetings, I often notice various lines drawn in the sand when it comes to the profession of hygiene and what it means to be a hygienist. The replayed topics are member vs. potential member, clinician vs. consultant, periodontal hygienist vs. general practice hygienist, associate degree hygienist vs. advanced degree hygienist, researcher vs. real-world hygienist — the perceived wars could go on and on. During the summer, I read an article that discusses motherhood titled, "Yummy vs. Slummy" (Newsweek, Aug. 13, 2007). I thought, "This sounds just like dental hygiene!"
For the record, I value being a member of the ADHA and believe all hygienists should join. I am a life-long student, so higher education is significant to me. In addition, many of my colleagues know that I do not shun controversy and love to engage in a worthy debate. Yet when one navigates all these comparative conversations and attempts to determine who has a more difficult, overwhelming or exciting role in dental hygiene, I believe collateral damage and guilty feelings can be created for many hygienists. When we boast of how difficult our positions are vs. another hygienist who is on a different path, or get involved in comparative one-upmanship, it may fragment our profession and promote exclusion, not inclusion.
I am proud to report that during the RDH Under One Roof Conference held in August, I heard no such obsessive, stereotypical discussions. No one compared or protected their career choices. Nor did the attendees discuss whose role is more stressful or more prized. The exchanges between attendees, speakers and exhibitors were supportive and based on mutual respect.
We shared insights, product tips, and information in a relationship-building atmosphere. I took part in many discussions and overheard more productive exchanges outside continuing education sessions, on the exhibit floor, at receptions, and during social events. These all shared a common non-judgmental theme and a genuine appreciation for each other's accomplishments and goals.
As long as there have been expanding roles in dental hygiene, there have been conversations about differences and opportunities. These are needed, important and interesting. My wish is that if you're tired of the perceived stressors or challenges of keeping up with other hygienists, mark your calendars for UOR 2008, in Chicago. Attend an event that gives you permission to be the hygienist and person you choose to be, in a community environment that verifies we are all in this together.
All the best,
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS