Contemporary Hygienist founders, Claire Berry and Faye Donald, share insight into their exciting new venture; a nationwide movement to empower and support dental hygienists and therapists by providing quality training in motivating environments.
The Contemporary Hygienist study club is something you first launched locally. Why did you want to do that?
Claire: We started the Contemporary Hygienist in 2019. We wanted to support local hygienists and therapists.
It is a lonely profession. And we want our hygienist and therapist colleagues to feel as good about their job as we both do.
Faye: It was really wonderful. We had therapists and hygienists coming from all stages of their careers, including university students and those with lots of fabulous clinical experience.
Clinical knowledge is, of course, the backbone of what we do in patients’ appointments. But there is so much more that we want to share; from business know-how to making sure we take good physical and emotional care of ourselves.
We share what we know as hygienists and invite wonderful speakers who are experts in their fields to support the pursuit of career satisfaction and personal happiness.
Why are you rolling it out nationwide now?
Faye: We both aspire to be what we call the ‘contemporary hygienist’.
That is not about telling someone they should work a particular way. But rather asking them: ‘What kind of hygienist do you want to be? And how can we support you to become that?’
Claire: When 2022 started, I rang Faye and suggested to her that we roll out the study club nationwide,. We want to grow and evolve, and help others do that, too.
For me, it is important that we stop thinking of ourselves as someone’s hygienist or therapist. Instead we should see our roles as facilitating what else goes on in the practice.
It’s a mindset change that will take time. We want to make sure there is the opportunity for that to happen for everyone. Not just our for colleagues in the north of England.
How would you define the ‘contemporary hygienist’?
Faye: It’s different for everyone. Even Claire and I have different aspirations. But we are both pursuing the idea of the contemporary hygienist.
In a nutshell, as stated on our website (contemporaryhygienist.com), the contemporary hygienist is empowered.
They are passionate and they want to work autonomously. They own their professional role like a business, deciding what equipment they use and what products they apply. And they invest in themselves, their health and their business. They are driven with a thirst for life-long learning. They want to be the best they can be mentally, physically and professionally.
What are the key issues facing hygienists and therapists at the moment?
Faye: First, 20-minute appointment times are a challenge, to say the least!
Modern, evidence-based dentistry allows us to know so much about behaviour. As well as systemic health and the links with our oral health. Being so time poor is an injustice to our patients.
Claire: I also think therapy is such an under-utilised role. We need to teach more people about what a therapist does, and to know the value of a therapist.
That ties in with the fact that the dental profession as a whole should think prevention, not reaction. Hygienists and therapists need to come together to make sure we are used to our fullest scope of practice.
These are not new challenges. They are something the BSDHT is also working towards. And we are fully in alignment with their ethos and efforts.
What differentiates the Contemporary Hygienist from other study clubs?
Claire: We are coming at things from a slightly different angle. We want to empower hygienists to be autonomous. We also want to empower hygienists to be respectfully assertive, and to love their career, like we do.
Faye: Our ECPD power lectures help to support hygienists and therapists make changes from being passive to respectfully assertive.
Undergraduate education is very clinically focused. We want to build on that so that we can all look after ourselves in business terms, too.
If someone feels a bit shy about joining, what would you say to them?
Claire: I would say, it’s amazing how many people come to these things alone. You therefore won’t feel out of place for that.
But then, very quickly, you will end up with a network of people that you’re going to see each time, and you’re not going to feel alone.
Being a hygienist and/or therapist is a very lonely profession. However, there’s opportunity in every conversation if you put yourself out there.
Faye: I also really want to make sure that people understand that the Contemporary Hygienist is all-inclusive. We’re friendly and it’s a safe space.
Any level of expertise is welcome and no question is silly. If you are wondering about something, someone else is too, I guarantee it!
And just because we are called the Contemporary Hygienist, it doesn’t mean we don’t want therapists with us.
We very much want hygienists and therapists networking together, supporting one another. It is simply named ‘Contemporary Hygienist’ because that’s what Claire and I are – hygienists.
Claire: We would like to think of ourselves as creating a movement, and movement creates change.
We can’t do what we’ve always done, if what we’ve always done doesn’t necessarily work.
There are lots of people in the profession who aren’t happy. So I feel like we need this movement, to create a change in the way that we work, the way we’re perceived, the way that the industry sees us, the way that the other healthcare professionals see us.
It is time to make a change.
If you would like to know more about the Contemporary Hygienist, please visit contemporaryhygienist.com. Here you can also send Claire or Faye a message.