Director's Message: Present and accounted for

Nov. 30, 2007
Labor disputes in the creative arts cause one to wonder how hygienists would be affected by a strike?

What would happen if all the communication scripts were never rewritten? Could you move forward as a successful oral wellness educator?

I write this message while attending the Greater New York Dental Meeting. "I LOVE NEW YORK," is the official theme for the New York tourist bureau. However, during our visit, the Broadway stagehands are on strike. Many folks holding Broadway tickets, though they may empathize with the union members, must be disappointed they can't enjoy the arts in New York. The Writer's Guild is also on strike, and members are protesting at nearby tourist hotspots. Many live talk shows have gone into reruns because of the strike, and tourists cannot see these shows while in New York.

So as I was walking down 53rd Street, I thought, "Could the hygiene profession survive if all the well-respected lecturers, management consultants, or other non-clinical expert minds went on strike and stopped developing new clinical scripts? Would hygienists continue to repeat the same tired educational monologues, delivered in the traditional one-way communication style? Alternatively, could our profession move forward and continue to provide the valued care our patients deserve while connecting with them in a way that frees them to accept treatment?"

During a business dinner, the discussion centered on, "What is your most coveted possession?" The consensus was that time is most precious. Many of us can relate to the value of time. We often hear, "I don't have enough time to exercise," or "I don't have enough time to spend with my family and friends." And we can all empathize with the all-to-frequent pre-fab hygiene time slots that are afforded us.

During the discussion, colleague Amy Frazin, RDH, BS, agreed that time is a prized commodity. Yet she went a step further to say that being present in the moment should be more treasured. I agree. Being fully engaged in the moment, whether at work or home, can make all the difference. Being present in the moment means slowing down and paying attention.

Patients can tell whether or not a professional is 100 percent engaged. If we fail to pay full attention, the energy of wellness becomes less focused and we lose the opportunity to engage in a true relationship. Patients come to accept this lack of engagement from medical and dental professionals. They chalk it up to the "norm." We can change that!

Rapport and trust are not developed when we artificially use someone else's words; they are not achieved when we non-stop multitask throughout an appointment. Examples include writing up charts, cleaning our room while waiting for the doctor, contemplating the lunch menu, or any other non-verbal ritual that occupies our time and prevents us from giving our full attention to patients. When the hygienist is distracted during a session, the lack of attentiveness adds barriers to building relationships with our patients. This ultimately affects our patients' acceptance of their treatment options.

I believe that when we pay full attention and focus on our patients' needs and dovetail that with the best practice recommendations, then and only then will our patients trust our expertise and begin to own their disease and agree to the proposed treatment recommendations.

I hope that the next time you find yourself stressed because you feel time slipping away, remind yourself to stop in the moment and become fully present in the relationship at hand. You can do this whether you're talking on the phone, driving your kids to the bus stop, or delivering dental hygiene care. Then and only then will you value time and appreciate the moment.

Therefore, I believe that hygienists could survive without all the fancy and sometimes expensive treatment scripts offered by corporate America. All we need to do is speak our truth and be fully present so we can focus entirely on the current situation and clients.

Similar to the talk show talents like David Letterman, Jay Leno, and Craig Ferguson, who are supporting their striking writers, I feel compelled to share the names of the deserving PennWell team who should truly get respect and appreciation for the RDH eVillage redesign. Mark Hartley, Craig Dickson and I get many opportunities to bask in the accolades. Yet the following team members from the Tulsa office may never feel the gratitude for all the hard work they do to produce RDH eVillage.

The RDH eVillage superstars are Vicki Cheeseman, Meg Kaiser, Machele Galloway, Vivian Kouplen, Chris Madison and Kim Reed. Their boss is David Warren.

Please take a moment to read their names. If you are energized by the changes and innovations we are working hard to bring you, please e-mail me or take a minute to fill out the survey in this month's issue. I will pass it along. Praising forward will come back to you ten-fold.

All the best,
Kristine A. Hodsdon, RDH, BS