Light at the end, part 2: Strategies for successfully finishing dental hygiene school

Jasmin Haley, RDH, and Toroda Stanley, RDH, offers suggestions on finishing dental hygiene school.

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By Jasmin Haley, RDH, BSDH, CDA, and Toroda Stanley, RDH

Completing dental hygiene school is a rite of passage. For many, it is one of the most difficult accomplishments one can achieve. Year after year, many dental hygiene professionals graduate school and are eager to make a difference in the community.

Are you currently in dental hygiene school? Do you feel that there isn't light at the end of the root canal tunnel? Read further to learn three strategies on how to successfully finish dental hygiene school from an educator’s perspective.

In the last issue of RDH Graduate, we explored three tips from a new graduate. Click here to read the first part of this article.

Tips from an educator

Ah, dental hygiene school! We remember it like it was yesterday. Although we would never opt to do it again (smile!), it was the best and most challenging years of our professional careers. We learned so much from the faculty and peers. As an educator, there are things we wish we knew, as well as what we wish our students would know as they pursue the same goal. In the last issue, we shared three P’s to successfully finish dental hygiene school. As educators, we now will share the three C's.

1. Calm

Have you ever heard of the term "take a chill pill”? Maybe not. We probably all wish we knew how to relax and calm down when our minds are full of anxiety and fear during school. In dental hygiene school, you will face many deadlines, science intensive courses, meetings, volunteer opportunities, etc. You may even feel like your head is spinning right now, just thinking of it.

Read these words carefully: "Don't forget to relax and take time for yourself. Everything will work out. You are not alone."

Jasmin worked her way through most of school. While some of her peers may have been home studying, she was working nights and at an odd job during the day to support herself. During this time, she forgot to live a little and take time for herself. Here is where stress reduction strategies and mindfulness comes in to the scene to save the day!

You must learn how to calm your mind during stressful times. Don't miss out on the incredible relationships you can build with your faculty, classmates, and community members by being solely focused on finishing your requirements. Dental hygiene school goes by quickly. As you are growing into a professional, you are also growing as an individual. Don't forget to embrace that journey.

Many RDHs have been through your shoes and have finished the program. Take some time to have some fun. It's what we finally did! We are thankful to colleagues for showing us how to live a little and embrace the experience.

2. Confidence

Building confidence during dental hygiene school is difficult when you are frequently (sometimes daily) assessed by your faculty. The grading system is different from your pre-dental hygiene curriculum. Perhaps every grade you have received seems like you will never get it right. We wish we knew during dental hygiene school that each grade we received was not a reflection of the dental hygienist we would later become.

The grades, critiques, and guidance from faculty members were given to us as a challenge to work harder and to successfully pass national examinations. In retrospect, we often think about our most challenging professors.

One professor would often not answer some of questions, indicating a challenge to find the answer through research. We didn't understand why they couldn't just provide the answer. Today, we are thankful that their push helped us to gain the confidence to take our role as dental hygienists to new heights. We are fully capable of taking the initiative by the horns because of these faculty who consistently challenge us.

How does this help you now? I encourage you to start your day off with a positive meditation, mantra, quote, prayer, or whatever you use to feel more centered. Take 15 minutes out of the beginning of your day to set your intention towards confidence and positivity. You will notice that when you are centered, upbeat, and have a positive mindset, your confidence is boosted. Here are two awesome videos from one of our favorite motivational speakers: How To Have More Confidence and How To Believe In Yourself (More than Self-Esteem and Confidence) .

3. Collaborations

At every student orientation, Jasmin asks the students to take a look at the person to their left and right. Why? Your classmates will be one of your major support systems and will understand exactly what you are going through. Lean on them! When you are in need of requirements, late study nights, a shoulder to cry on, a great laugh, or someone to listen to you, many times it will be your colleagues who will be supporting you.

Secondly, your faculty are also available to support you. As an educator, is a hard thing to hear that students feel a faculty member is unapproachable or doesn't want them to succeed. We assure you that your faculty know, understand, and want you to succeed.

Several of our students have graduated and are now considered colleagues. Their professionalism and willingness to collaborate during school has transformed into professional opportunities such as writing articles together. Your faculty are proud of your accomplishments and want to see your success. Your collaboration with your colleagues and faculty now can lead to beautiful professional relationships in the future!

Jasmin Haley, RDH, BSDH, CDA, is the founder of Beyond the Prophy and co-founder of MOMgienist. She is the executive producer/co-creator of the MOMgienists podcast and the executive producer/creator of the Beyond the Prophy podcast. She has over 15 years of experience as a dental hygienist, educator, and dental assistant. She serves as an adjunct faculty member in a dental hygiene program. Jasmin helps the hygiene community to “Think Beyond the Prophy” by inspiring and empowering professionals to give the best patient-centered care, reach their greatest potential and explore career options that promote excellence. Her continuing education courses are making a difference in the dental industry. She is a leader in education, connector of peer set movers and shakers, and educator that empowers and inspires. She can be reached at info@beyondtheprophy.com or through www.jasminhaley.com.

Toroda Stanley, RDH, joined the profession in May 2017. She holds an associate’s degree in general studies with a science concentration from Howard Community College in Columbia, Md. Toroda has been in dentistry for 20 years as a dental assistant and transitioned to dental hygienist with her company in July 2017. As a student, Toroda was nominated for 2017’s Allied Health Science Student of the year from the dental hygiene program. Toroda was the recipient of the “It’s Hygienic” scholarship, the Colgate Star award for her dedication to her patients, volunteer service and her involvement in the community. She presently serves as secretary of the Maryland Dental Hygienists’ Association, as well as student liaison to the seven dental hygiene schools in Maryland. Toroda has been married for 17 years to her husband Michael and has two children—Caleb, 15, and Cianna, 13. She is passionate about dental hygiene, and strives to give each patient a thorough and educational experience during each visit.

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