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Is burnout normal?

I have been doing hygiene 3-4 days per week for over a year now and I’m already feeling burned out. I work at a great office and love what I do but have noticed that patient’s attitudes make me dislike the job. It’s annoying when a patient tries to dictate care (no cold water, no ultrasonic, reactions to X-rays and probings, refusing srp tx, etc). I feel disrespected sometimes by my patients and it seems as a hygienist they just view you as just ‘the person who’s supposed to clean my teeth,’ not a registered healthcare provider. I just got offered a promotion to work full time at my job and am not sure if I should take it. I guess what I’m getting at is has anyone else felt like this? And how do you deal?

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2 Answers

Burnout in any profession, including dental hygiene, can happen. Reinvigorating your career by going to conferences like the ADHA Annual Session or RDH Under One Roof has helped many get excited and fuel that passion again. These conferences are also great networking opportunities that can open doors to new directions. Even getting involved with your local ADHA component has changed some hygienists view on going to work everyday. Some hygienists cut their clinical days and that seems to help with burnout as well. I don’t know your particular situation, but if the doctor isn’t backing you on the clinical needs of a patient, which is why the patients are acting like this, maybe the office isn’t a great fit which is leading to your burnout. I’ve heard of many hygienists starting to feel burnout and when they switched offices, everything changed. Or maybe its time to move away from clinical work if its bringing you down. Have you thought about working for a dental company doing research, sales, or product education (lunch and learns)? Or maybe working for a dental consulting company? Here is a great list from the ADHA with other career paths beyond clinical, private practice, dental hygiene: http://www.adha.org/professional-roles
Change is scary, but being open to new things can open doors, you just can’t be afraid to walk through them. I wrote an article about changing career paths: http://www.rdhmag.com/articles/print/volume-35/issue-3/columns/think-like-an-entrepreneur.html
And even if you take a break from clinical work, it doesn’t mean you can’t go back. My chiropractor was getting burnout so he stepped away for about a year and helped his wife with her business and low and behold he’s totally ready to see patients again. It sounds to me like taking on more days might add to the burnout. Of course, this is a decision you will have to make for yourself, but more days may compound the problem. By no means are you alone on feeling burnout, just know that there are other options with your education that you can pursue. I wish the best of luck to you!

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Burn out definitely happens to all of us. Talk to your boss about your feelings and see if they can help facilitate needed treatments along with the other coworkers talking about how important hygiene is and the expertise hygienist have. I know it helps that my boss is always talking about periodontal health and importance of hygiene appointments. Also you’ve only been there a year. You will start getting to know all the patients and you will get to know them and their families on a more personal level and you’ll be excited to see them over the years and hear their stories. They will ask you about your life too and you’ll enjoy sharing as well.

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