I had a colleague of mine say the most appalling thing to me a few days ago. This individual responded to a post I shared about my most recent CE course, stating “I already have all of my CE credits, I don’t need any more for this renewal period”.
Statements like this are not uncommon. Let’s be honest: the CE requirements, which vary by state, can be overwhelming. Between the required course content, sorting out live or webinar courses, self-study and the like, it can be difficult to manage, and I completely understand that. What I don’t understand is the all-too-common mentality that hitting the bare minimum is some kind of gold standard for dental hygienists when it comes to preparing for and advancing their careers.
Quite frankly, I fear that hygienists are trained this way starting as far back as dental hygiene school. As a previous educator with a full-time faculty appointment with a local dental hygiene program, we would provide clinical requirements. These requirements were parameters for meeting the semester-long requirements as well as means for completing graduation requirements. Once students hit their required patient experiences for the semester, it was very common to witness a general malaise and lack of effort in clinic. Students would make up excuses like “my patient cancelled” or “I couldn’t find anyone to come in” and so they sat with a small handful of points deducted from their professionalism form as they pretended to sharpen instruments when they were really surfing social media, completing unfinished homework for other classes or socializing with their equally unmotivated classmates. These were the same students who, upon graduation by the way, requested that I write them verbosely glowing letters of recommendation in which they expected me to boast about their professionalism, drive, and willingness to grow. But that’s a topic for another blog post, perhaps.
From the earliest part of their hygiene careers, dental hygiene students were conditioned to stop trying after they met the minimum requirements. And as faculty, we sat back and kinda let it happen. Yes, we’d get up from our faculty office, saunter over to our students, and ask them what their plan was for the day seeing as they didn’t have a patient, but that was about it. Now, any previous students of mine will attest to the annoyingly robust fire I desperately lit under their behinds to stay motivated but what’s that saying about bringing your horse to the water?
Fast forward to their graduation date: I now have new grads telling me they won’t be attending my CE courses because they “don’t need any CE credits yet”. My assumption is that they are alluding to the fact that the bare minimum of their licensure doesn’t require CE credits for renewal. I can’t help but admire how confident new graduates can be in their clinical, communication and treatment planning skills given their ZERO hours of experience without someone standing over your shoulder. Are we allowing the bare licensure minimum to qualify new graduates as someone who wouldn’t benefit from continuing education coursework?
Now I’m not naïve to what it’s like to be a new grad with pending school loans. In fact, it was a glorious Thursday afternoon that I received a letter stating my undergraduate loans were paid off. I had 24 solid hours to celebrate being “debt free” before Friday afternoon’s mail delivered my payoff plan for my graduate school loans. I taught as an educator where my students with an Associates degree and no experience graduated into clinical practice where their starting salary was nearly double the salary that I was with my Master’s Degree, published textbooks and over a decade of experience. In 2017, I started my own business with three profit centers, absolutely no business loan and judging eyes when people learned that yes, I do still work at a practice on Saturdays. I understand the fears that debt and the unknown bring, but I promise you: having a “bare minimum mentality” is a poor way to begin your gorgeous career in dental hygiene.
In contrast, I spoke for our local component a few months ago and was disappointed by the behavior I observed from the more “established” hygienists in the room. I get it: I’m a thirty-something sassy ginger whose pencil skirt ensemble seemed out of place for the local restaurant I was lecturing out of, but the catty whispers, pointing and giggling and looks of disapproval were not only unnecessary but disheartening. While I respect the countless years and patient experiences our seasoned hygienists bring, I do believe that the industry of dental hygiene is ever-changing. Could us seasoned hygienists stand to learn a few things from a speaker who is conducting the research, publishing the articles and creating the course content?
So here is the truth: if you are a hygienist who is dedicated to getting the bare minimum of CE hours, please unfollow me now. My gut tells me that you are the same hygienist who does the bare minimum in the office. You are the hygienist who won’t take the trash out, you leave your dirty tray in sterile and won’t pick up the phone during down time. You are the hygienist who performs partial perio charting of all 3-2-3’s and no recession, skips the oral cancer screening because the doctor checks the tongue during the exam and avoids taking FMXs if you can help it. You are also the same hygienist who complains on social media about not being offered a raise, not being wined-and-dined by your doctor or not being respected by your colleagues. While I consider myself an advocate for all dental hygienists, I simply cannot support “professionals” who will not take responsibility for the gorgeous opportunities they have to improve the quality of lives for so many. So please, at the bare minimum- which you’re good at, unfollow me. I have no intention of reaching you or your skewed perception of the incredible career you have been gifted with.
To all of the beautiful minds in dental hygiene who are curious, passionate and driven; the CE junkies who can’t get enough and have a constant thirst for more; the professionals who believe so deeply in the incredible opportunities we have to change lives with our knowledge and skills; the givers who so innately wish to deliver service that improves the quality of life for those within our community; the dreamers who see a gorgeous opportunity for dentistry to intimately align with medicine and the seekers who commit daily to the pursuit of growth and development in the art and science of dental hygiene: YOU are the future, and YOU are my “WHY”. YOU are a Dental WINEgenist, and you are my tribe.
I endeavor to be your voice, to elevate your thoughts, to empower your souls, to remind you of your passion when you need it, to inspire you, and to walk beside you as we work together to become the change we wish to see for our industry.