Setting goals for a happy New Year from the perspective of a dental assistant

Jan. 16, 2013
Whatever your goals for the new year may be, Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, thinks 2013 is the time for dental assistants to get serious about where they want their career to go.

Can you believe another year has come and gone? Where did 2012 go? Each year I set goals to grow personally and professionally. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t always reach those goals, but if I don’t make the goals, I don’t have anything to reach for.

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Thirty-three years ago right after high school I attended a local community college for dental laboratory technology, and then my life took a different turn. I got married, had a baby, and was divorced, all in a matter of 18 months. I knew I needed to go to school, but I was a single mom with no clue what to do. When I tried reenrolling in the dental lab course, I learned the college had terminated the program. I had no idea where to turn.

Our community offered a program for low-income people like me that would educate me and get me started on a new career. They offered several programs, but the one I thought I might like was the dental assistant program. I believe I made a wise choice!

That seems like a lifetime ago. So much has happened since then. I’ve never been without a job, I get to work with amazing people, and I’ve challenged myself and grown in my career by taking expanded functions, becoming a CDA, and teaching and developing a dental assisting program that I now direct, all while working chairside. I contribute articles to Dental Assisting Digest, where I sit on the editorial board, and I contribute to the ADAA 24/7 and Dental Economics. I sit on the board for the Illinois Dental Assistants Association, work with the ADAA on a national level, and I founded a study club in my area for assistants. And I actually do find time to sleep once in a while!

There are still so many things I want to do professionally. I love to learn. I don’t think one can ever stop learning because our world is constantly changing. If we’re not moving forward, we’re going backward. As our profession changes, our job description grows! The technology coming out every day is amazing; our doctors depend on us more and more. Gone are the days when a dentist hangs out his or her shingle and patients flock in. Creating a successful practice is a team effort, and YOU are a valuable member of that team!

Have you thought about what you want to accomplish in 2013? What goals do you want to set for yourself? Here are some tips for those goals and making them happen.

Step 1 — Create realistic goals. Don’t start trying to take over the world. Break your goals down into smaller ones. You can more easily reach your goals if you share them with people who are important to you, and this makes you accountable. I make it a point to write down my goals, and I visit my list often to keep me focused. Sometimes my goals change as events arise, so my list changes but it only gets better.

Step 2 — Each goal has to have a plan. Make a roadmap of how you’re going to achieve your goals. Believe in yourself and don’t talk yourself out of reaching for your dreams. You won’t always get what you go after, and that’s OK. The lessons you learn will be valuable, and you’ll get there next time.

Step 3 — When you achieve a goal, reward yourself! It’s hard work to stick to a plan and make things happen, so celebrate your success. You are the most important asset you have, so treat yourself to something fun.

Maybe your goal will include taking one of the national certification exams offered by the Dental Assisting National Board, Inc. (DANB) to become a Certified Dental Assistant (CDA), Certified Orthodontic Assistant (COA), or Certified Preventive Functions Dental Assistant (CPFDA). Or perhaps your goal is to get involved with other dental assistants through the American Dental Assistants Association. Perhaps you want to get involved or start a community service project to help underserved communities, or maybe you want to take an expanded functions course according to your state guidelines that will allow you to perform more tasks.

Whatever your goals may be, I think 2013 is the time to get serious about where you want your career to go. What do you want out of our profession?

This is one amazing time to be a dental assistant! I want you to jump on the bandwagon, go after your goals, and make things happen!

2013 is moving in fast. Where do you want it to take you?

Have a Happy New Year, everyone!

Author bio
Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA, is a 1981 graduate of the Missouri College, and has more than 30 years of chairside experience. She is currently the office manager/chairside assistant to Dr. Eric Hurtte of O’Fallon Mo. She is a member of the ADAA, founder of the Dental Assistants Study Club of St. Louis, director of the Dental Careers Institute, and an independent consultant specializing in assistant training, team building, office organization, and CEREC assistant training. She can be reached at [email protected], or find her on Facebook.