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Looking for some career advice

Hey! I have seen many of these posts before and have read as many as I can but I would love for any opinions or advice many of the experienced hygienists have had (sorry this post is going to be long). I graduated last year with my B.S in Hygiene, I worked as a temp for five months and have worked at my first office for the last four months.
This office I am working at has me as their first and only hygienist. I miss having other hygienists I can talk to and ask advice, which is why I’ve turned to this forum. I have found as I have worked at this office I have been losing my passion for my career, which blows my mind since I knew I wanted to be a hygienist since I was 8 years old! Background about the office: every staff member is very wonderful to me as a person, but I’m beginning to think in my limited experience that they are setting me up to fail. I have 40 minutes for x-rays, cleaning and the dental exam, no assistance and resetting my room. The dentist comes 40 minutes late every day, and has no problem making patients wait. Then when it’s time for the exam, he told me there is no need to ever probe unless it might be an SRP, in which case we perform after the procedure. I refuse to give up a thorough intraoral cancer screening but the dentist will come in, explore almost every single tooth and tell me I’ve missed spots in front of the patient. I’ve explained I need more time to be more thorough but the dentist insists that I should never bother with handscale instruments and use a piezo only since it cleans every surface (he always seems to forget he has two assistants suctioning for him) and so I begged him to give me more time since he originally had me seeing patients every 30 minutes with 20 minutes for children.
I am so grateful to be working in an office, especially as it is my first one, and the office staff are very kind to me as a person but I’m questioning whether I am a good hygienist at all. I watch so many cleaning videos in my spare time to better understand how I can do a better job but at the end of the day, I just feel exhausted, frustrated with myself, and desperately wanting to quit hygiene. I know every job has drawbacks and I’m sure I can assert myself more, but I can’t figure out if the problem is my own inexperience and that if I push through I will be more comfortable and happy or if this office isn’t allowing me to grow and become better. I never seem to be good enough any more.
What would advice would you give yourself about your first office? I appreciate any ideas, navigating this by myself is so scary!!!!!

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1 Answer

I feel like I just read how the beginning of my dental hygiene career began… I temped for about 6 months, then landed my first permanent position. The doctor told me I’d have 30 minute appointments, but not to worry because I’d have an assistant helping me. I thought, okay, I can give this a go. I was eager to have a permanent position because I had student loans to pay!
Well, there was never an assistant available (out of the 6) because the doctor saw about 70 patients per day. I saw up to 18 per day. On top of only having 30 minutes per patient, I was expected to help the doctor anesthetize. I was told the same as you; no need for full periodontal charting unless they needed it to bill for SRP. What?! And, “Why do you handscale, just use the ultrasonic.” No! You need to fine handscale after the ultrasonic! The doctor would even embarrass me in front of patients if I missed one tiny speck of supracalculus, even though it was because of time restraints he had given, that I wasn’t able to be thorough.
I was drowning, physically and mentally, like it sounds like you are. I began resenting my career choice, even though dental hygiene was the plan for as long as I can remember. I cried more when working for this office then I did in hygiene school. I begged for more time, like you, to no avail. You ARE being set up to fail in this office. If this office is anything like what I experienced, profits were above patient care. Get them in, get them out, no matter what expense to them or you (think musculoskeletal injuries here, not to mention burnout). It’s not worth it. Patient care matters and so do YOU! You have to sleep at night knowing you did the best for your patients. If you don’t feel like you are being given that opportunity, you are probably right.
I totally understand being grateful to be hired and given the opportunity as a new hygienist. I must say, I learned from my first permanent office, they hired only new grads because they knew we were so eager to work, and perhaps naive, as to how dentistry and patient care should be. I’m not calling you naive by any stretch, you feel something is off, be proud of that!
You are NOT a horrible hygienist, you are working at a horrible office! Excuse me, I’m blunt… perhaps I should soften the tone… You are in an office that does not share your patient care standard. I think you already know you need to find an office that does, your “forever office.”
Like you, I knew pretty early on that office wasn’t the one for me. I made looking for a new office like a 2nd job. I’m not going to lie and say it happened immediately. I live in a highly saturated area of dental hygienists, especially back then, and it took some time. However, when I was hired at a new office, everything changed. It was like a whole new career. One hour appointments (unless I needed more depending on the patients needs), not having how I treated patients dictated, patient care before profits, and if I needed new instruments or anything I simply said the word. Truly, a whole new career with only the change of work place!
What I’m saying is, you need to trust your gut. Finding a new office might not be easy and may take time, but to allow you to love what you do, you need the right fit. Don’t settle. With that said, all offices have their quirks, and you have to pick your battles, but standard of care shouldn’t be one of them.
I really do wish you the best of luck! Keep your chin up and do what you feel is right and that may be moving on so you can grow into the clinician you’ve always wanted to be!

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