By Kristy S. Borquez, CDA, RDAEF, FADAA, 2004-2005 President, American Dental Assistants Association
I have been a clinical chairside dental assistant since June of 1974 and began working at my current office the following month. As you might imagine, my responsibilities to the office have increased over the past 31 years. During a recent restructuring of my dental office, I was asked by an office consultant to submit my job description. So I listed chairside assistant, clinical coordinator, staff scheduling coordinator, back-office supplies coordinator, biological sterilizing monitor coordinator, etc. Of course, after you actually put everything down on paper you realize how versatile this job really is. Then I began to think of all of those functions we dental assistants perform on a regular basis that never get listed on a resumé.
We are multi-task oriented individuals and the effects extend far beyond everyday clinical procedures. To begin with, we can decipher our dentists’ handwriting even when they cannot. We remember details that patients tell us about their lives. We know who is: getting married, getting divorced, having a baby, having surgery, in little league, in dance class, having problems at work, or selling their car. We know who is comfortable coming into the office and who would rather have bamboo shoots stuck beneath their fingernails on a regular basis. And, above all, we know how to deal with all of these diverse people individually.
I have always felt that I deserve a degree in psychology because I play psychologist for most of my eight-hour day. I can put people at ease by talking to them or, maybe most importantly, by listening to them. The rapport that dental assistants create with their patients makes a potentially frightening experience tolerable and often times pleasurable. Once after assisting with a periodontal surgery, a patient told me she had a delightful time. Of course I asked if I could quote her (and I have many times).
I like what I do and I always have. I feel that the patients at my office are just as much my patients as they are my doctor’s patients. I know that this situation is not unique to my office but exists in most dental offices. So perhaps it is time for dentists to think outside the box and recognize their assistants not only for their clinical abilities, but also for the unique, diverse, assets to the office that they really are. This past March we celebrated Dental Assistants Recognition Week, but I truly believe the recognition should never be just a one-week-a-year event. It should be year round. And, though monetary recognition is always appreciated, the simple acknowledgment of a job well done goes a long way.