There may be nothing more satisfying than the telling of a great story! Over the coming months, join me as we take time to listen to dental professionals across the country share their stories of finding fulfillment in flexible careers—from short-term fill-in to long-term locum tenens, a flexible career in dentistry has never been more important.
Meet Cindy Rogers, RDH, consultant, entrepreneur, and founding educator at Oral Health United. Cindy began her career as a paralegal in employment law. With experience in management, team training, mentorship, and compliance, she is also the cohost of the Dental Alements podcast and cofounder of rootUon. Read on to find out how temping through onDiem has given Cindy the opportunity to expand her skills beyond clinical work and create a flexible career.
MT: You’ve had quite an exciting dental career. Have you always been a dental hygienist?
CR: My debut in dentistry was in the front office, where I excelled in collections and insurance billing. I quickly moved into the office manager role, and after 13 years decided I wanted to take on a new challenge as a dental hygienist. After practicing full-time clinical hygiene for the next 10 years, I branched out and explored other roles—practice consultant, educator, presenter, podcast cohost, and mentor. And through all of that, I sprinkle in some temping. Who doesn’t love sprinkles?
MT: Even prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, flexible careers were becoming more and more popular among dental professionals. What spurred you to first start temping?
CR: I actually started temping early on in my career. At that point, I knew I was too young—and perhaps a bit too wild—to commit to a long-term position. Eventually, I did settle down for the bulk of my career...then I got a wild streak again! Temping has been a safety net for me. I’ve been able to explore many roles and expand my skill set without having to commit to a full-time position and by being able to set my own schedule. Depending on what else is happening in my life, I’m able to work as much—or as little—as I want, knowing I have the security of picking up a shift if I want some extra cash.
MT: It sounds like temping has really helped you take chances and acquire skills outside of the clinical op. In your opinion, what are the biggest benefits of temping?
CR: To me, the biggest benefits of a flexible career are freedom, having a higher hourly rate, more frequent paydays, and experiencing what life is like inside dental practices across my community. A side benefit is being able to stay out of office politics. I also love the networking and learning new ways to do (and not do) things, as well as seeing and trying new products.
MT: Let’s face it, temping can be difficult at times. Have you experienced any drawbacks?
CR: The biggest drawback has been missing out on that “home team” feeling.Temping can make it more difficult to build professional friendships. If you like seeing the same faces every day and getting close to your coworkers, temping could cause you to feel left out at times.
MT: I’m sure another benefit of working in so many practices is being able to walk away with a good story or two. What’s been your funniest moment as a temporary team member?
CR: This is kind of embarrassing, which I guess is what makes it funny. I was having a day where I was extra nervous walking into a new office. Unfortunately, I lost all trust in myself and felt out of sorts. For some reason, I decided that the prophy jet mode on the Cavitron unit was the setting I should use, because it had the word “prophy” in it. My little inner voice was telling me, “No, Cindy, that is the high-power-polish setting.” But no, I did not listen and used it on all of my patients that day. Typically, my hand is very light and delights my patients—but not on this day! Eventually, a patient yelped out, “Is it supposed to vibrate my teeth this much?” That was when it hit me!
MT: I’ve totally been there! Overall, though, would you recommend temping through onDiem to fellow dental professionals?
CR: Absolutely—both for clinicians who are fresh out of school and for those who are seasoned. When starting out in the dental field, we typically are eager to land a job and snatch up some security and a paycheck. Too often, we do not take the time to examine our options prior to making a permanent commitment. Taking time to temp and learn the field is a way to get all of that and more.
Let’s face it, our clinical schedules are usually booked months in advance. If something comes up and you need a day off, it can be difficult to convince the office manager to cancel a day’s production. As a temporary team member, you have the flexibility of how far in advance you schedule yourself and also when and where you work. If you want to make a last-minute trip to Vegas on spring break, go!
To ensure your day goes smoothly when temping, be sure to have a list of things you will need to know. Arrive early enough to snoop around in the drawers and storage room to find out where all items are located. Temping is like cooking in someone else’s kitchen—nothing is where you think it should be. Knowing ahead of time where all of these items are located will not only set your mind at ease, but it will also comfort the patient because you won't be crazily pulling out drawers to find the floss.
MT: How can a dental practice best incorporate a temporary team member?
CR: I highly encourage flex staffing for dental practices. I mean, what could be better than a flexible staff? Think about what happens every July...the clinical schedule flatlines. A flexible team will flex with your schedule.
I recall the first day of temping in a new office. No matter how many years you have been doing it, you will still get butterflies. Upon arriving, one of the permanent hygienists gave me the tour of the operatory I would be working out of. To my ultimate delight, she showed me a list taped to the inside of a cupboard. There it was—the checklist! Suddenly, those little butterflies flew away as I now felt sure that I would make it through the day. On that checklist was a manifesto just for me:
- Turn on lights...
- How to let doctor know you are ready for an exam...
- How to turn on the TV…
This checklist contained every answer to every little fear I had. Doing something like this will help an entire team stay on track because the temporary team member won’t have to ask as many questions; the answer is right there in writing. With a well-written checklist, the new team member can jibe with the rest of the team and turn it into a productive day.
MT: Let's switch gears for a moment. Dentistry has been through a heck of a lot this past year. In your opinion, what does the future of dentistry look like?
CR: As a whole, dentistry will become much larger as we begin to integrate into the health-care community. Dental professionals will be considered oral health specialists, just like a podiatrist is a foot specialist. Dentistry may be a small world right now, but I believe that world is about to become even larger as we work together to build a better tomorrow.
MT: Any final advice for someone who is temping for the first time?
CR: Don’t panic. If (and when) you feel overwhelmed, take a long, slow breath and remember that nothing is ever that important, unless it is an emergency situation. Maintain your perspective!