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How to deal with a hygienist that doesn’t scale thoroughly and speeds through prophies

Our office has 3 hygienists, myself, who has been a hygienist for 35 years, my coworker “Lorna” who has been a hygienist 45 years and our newest addition “ Lucy” who graduated almost 3 years ago.
Lucy gets done with ALL of her patients in 40 minutes.
Lorna and I stay on time but we usually aren’t as fast.
The problem is Lorna and I are noticing Lucy is leaving subgingival calculus behind often.
She never seems concerned about dull instruments and doesn’t even care about using any graceys or files. She’s been told at her other office, which she doesn’t like and is leaving for our office, that she goes too fast and is leaving calculus behind.
Yesterday I went over the hour cleaning up a patient she had 6
Mo ago and I made my mind up something needs to change especially after talking to Lorna.
But just what to do I’m not sure. I don’t necessarily want to tell our Dr., I’d actually like to help her maybe check her patients with her but this probably wouldn’t work since I would have patients too besides being demeaning to her. I can’t tell if she just can’t feel the calculus or she’s too worried about getting behind or if she doesn’t care or is just too timid to get in there and scale!!
Pretty soon I’m going to go from full time to part time and I thought maybe I could come in on my off day and guide her which I would do I guess but that was t how I wanted to spend my days off and also then Dr would wonder what’s going on. I need advice



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2 Answers

First, I want to applaud you for wanting to help this hygienist. This shows such a great character on your part!
 
When it comes to conflict or issues between co-workers, I’m all for addressing the issue directly with the co-worker. However, it becomes tough when the issue is work quality because as a fellow hygienist, you aren’t her boss, making the discussion tricky. The fact that she’s leaving another office partially due to the constructive criticism they gave her, makes it seem that she’s probably not the best with constructive criticism. This alone, makes me wonder if the discussion on work quality would be best coming from the doctor as to not cause a stressed relationship between you two. However, this is a double-edged sword because if the doctor mentions “the other two hygienists are finding residual calculus” it can lead to a stressed relationship between you, the other seasoned hygienist, and her. You also need to be very certain that this isn’t a homecare issue on the patients’ part.
 
So what to do? You could approach her, privately and positively, and mention that you’ve noticed she doesn’t sharpen her instruments and ask if she needs help. Possibly explaining the importance of sharp instruments. I suggest starting with the instrument issue because some hygienists are fast and some just don’t care for Graceys or files, but can still scale effectively with the instruments they like. However, all hygienists need sharp instruments. Then you can see if she makes an effort to sharpen her instruments and go from there.
 
I’m really torn on whether you should mention directly to her that you are finding residual calculus. I’m leaning toward both you and the other seasoned hygienist having a chat with the doctor about your concerns regarding this. If the doctor feels its appropriate for you to approach her, offering your help, then there’s your answer. Again, it falls back to the point about not accepting constructive criticism well and if she leaves your office because of you approaching her, and the doctor wasn’t aware of the issue in the first place, this falls on your shoulders and you have to answer for it. I suppose I just feel that the doctor should be notified of the issue and your concerns because he/she may find it more appropriate to handle it as the boss.
 
Again, this is a tough one and how you approach it depends on what you know about this hygienist and what you feel will work best to solve the issue in the most positive way.

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Thanks Kara for your detailed and informed reply. I am meeting with Lorna to sort it through and will share your advice too.

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