Melica Bastani gives some advice to new hygienists and therapists on growing their careers and overcoming obstacles in dentistry.
As hygienists and therapists we are all hardworking and driven. But we are also well aware that starting your career in dentistry is an undoubtedly bumpy road.
For the most part, dental practices have become forward thinking, which in turn allows us to settle into a supportive environment and become well-established clinicians. However, it is no revelation that there are still a proportion of practices that hygienists and therapists struggle to communicate and level with.
After bouncing off other young hygienists and therapists it’s clear we all have this experience in one way or another.
Being a young dental care professional can often come across as a struggle, especially when applying for jobs. Some recognise the fresh knowledge you have to offer. Others…well, not so much. The most important thing for any young hygienist and therapist is to remember your value as a clinician. Remember what you bring to the table and the goals you want to achieve within dentistry.
It is wise to acknowledge that in any working environment you come across there are always challenging situations that you’ll face. The main aim in these situations is to understand how to deal with them, learn from them and develop and rise above any pre-set expectations.
To help address some of these issues, below are some tips to help keep you driven and motivated in the first few years of practice.
Always do your research on levels of pay within your area
Practices can be especially cheeky when they know you are young. They may try and offer you lower pay with the possibility of increasing that pay with experience.
In some situations, this is not necessarily a bad idea (bearing in mind that they are paying appropriately in the first place). However, not all practices are like this. Some may just offer lower pay, full stop.
By making sure you have done your research on pay for hygienists in the area and job offers nearby, you can request the same level of pay as other established hygienists in the area; and rightly so. You are just as qualified as the next hygienist so why not?
If the employer sees that you have done your research, they are more likely to offer you the pay you desire.
Think of yourself as a valued clinician not just ‘a hygienist’
You have gone through the same training as any other clinician in this profession, so don’t sell yourself short.
As hygienists and therapists, we have a lot more to offer than just a simple ‘scale and polish’. We can diagnose and treatment plan periodontal diseases, spend time educating the patient in oral health and general health and utilise our other skills either within our scope or through additional training.
When you start valuing yourself as a highly-skilled clinician, that will rub off on your colleagues and employers (trust me it works).
Do it! Book onto extra courses and develop your knowledge and skill set. You could be young or newly qualified. But there are always ways to build up your CV and be more marketable to practices.
You already have a strong educational foundation. There are so many courses out there to choose from that will work in line with your ongoing growth and success as a DCP.
Build a portfolio
A great way to get good recognition for your work is to build a portfolio of your patients. Whether that is reviews from patients or before and after clinical photos of your treatment with them. It develops your experience and gets you recognition for all your hard work.
This way patients can look through the level of service you provide. But also so can the practice and the dentists you know or work for. This can easily become one of your main assets and influence dentists to point more patients your way and have them booked in with you.
If you have an idea on how to expand services within the practice…share it!
Communication between colleagues and management is vital. It is a key factor that affects job satisfaction.
Now this can be a bit of a tricky one; you worry the practice will pinch and implement your ideas without you. Or that the practice will not be receptive to what you have to say.
This is true and can come to light in potentially any practice you work in. But it will surprise you how ideas and opinions become a valuable tool to the practice. In addition to this, you will not lose out by sharing your ideas. If the practice is supportive of you, then that brings a perfect opportunity to grow within your career.
If not, then you have figured out sooner rather than later if that practice fits in with your future goals and achievements.
Ultimately, you will always experience an element of change whether you prepare for it or don’t. Practices might not necessarily be as forward thinking or as innovative as you. And therefore they may not understand what your goals and ideas bring to the table.
One advantage that hygienists and therapists have is that as self-employed clinicians, we are extremely adaptable and well-articulated (given the nature of our job). Where we work in more than one practice throughout the week, it allows us to adapt and network within different environments, and gives us the upper hand in deciding which practices align well with us as a clinician.
Always have your vision and your goals in mind. Know that if things don’t go as planned, you can always change and adapt your goals. Make them achievable to provide that job satisfaction we all aim for.
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