Written by Janice B. Cary, RDH Friday, 01 August 2003 00:00
With any endeavor, routine actions have a tendency to interfere with your purpose. The career of dental hygiene is no different. The goals you set for yourself when graduating with your dental hygiene degree may get lost in the clutter of everyday responsibilities, and they may seem unattainable when you realize just how much has to be accomplished during an actual patient visit. There are times when you may find it impossible to remember what excited you about the career when you first embarked on it. Wherever you are in your career at the present time—a new graduate, a seasoned professional, or somewhere in between—hygiene is an interesting career choice and can work to (1) enhance other aspects of your life, (2) connect you to people you might not relate to under other circumstances, and (3) force you to think “outside of the box” more than once a day.
QUESTIONS TO PONDER
What then do you say to yourself as you leave work for the day? Have the 8 hours spent in clinical patient care been an interruption in your day? Are you exhausted and stressed from (1) dealing with difficult team members, (2) a doctor who is never pleased with your performance, or (3) patients who do not tell you when leaving your treatment area that “this was the best cleaning I’ve ever had”? Are you wondering about your career choice and how you can possibly continue more of the same for the rest of your life?
ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS
Okay, come out of your head for a moment and think back to one of your best days. Think about what made it so good and how you felt as you zipped through the hours of patient care. A major hurdle for most clinicians is to keep the focus continually on the patient and not on all the extraneous peripheral clutter that is necessary but intrusive. In an average patient care appointment of 45 to 60 minutes, you must find a way to complete the following:
(1) start a dialogue.
(2) review the medical history.
(3) take and interpret blood pressure.
(4) have the patient read and sign the notification of privacy for HIPAA.
(5) expose, develop, and mount radiographs.
(6) complete or update a periochart.
(7) scale, polish, rinse, and floss.
(8) provide home care and nutritional instruction.
(9) check for suspicious hard- and soft-tissue areas.
(10) wait for the doctor’s exam.
(11) write clinical findings in the chart.
(12) schedule the next appointment.
(13) release and escort the patient to the front desk.
(14) clean and disinfect your treatment area and set up for the next patient.
Your biggest responsibility has been left off the list, and that is connecting with the patient. With OSHA regulations, personal protective devices, and the impact of the HIPAA on privacy, some would consider connecting with the patient to be impossible and simply give it up. There are hygienists who work quietly and quickly with attention given to the patient only as an adjunct to the work performed. At some point and for some reason, they have become disconnected to the body in the chair and see only the teeth and the need to clean them. They are not watchful for signs of patient tension in the clenching of the hands, the beads of sweat forming on the upper lip, or any other external signs and symptoms that make that person real. If there is conversation at all, it is incidental and perfunctory and not a personal connection that starts to form bonds of a relationship. And while their clinical skills may be terrific, patients find them anonymous and have difficulty remembering them from visit to visit. As far as the patients are concerned, it doesn’t matter who sees them at each recare appointment because there is no relationship keeping them connected to the practice. They come because the office is convenient, because it accepts their insurance, or because they have a connection to the dentist who sees them for their exam and treatment care needs.
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