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What would you do?

I’m a recent dental hygiene graduate and finally landed a job. The doctor and staff is very friendly and pay is more than the other offices in the area. The office is very old school with outdated equipment, instruments are dull, and my chair doesn’t even adjust correctly. I could work with the previous deficiencies but not the 45 minute recare appointments. On my first day I immediately fell behind and had to forgo some very important assessments in order to take radiographs and finish each subsequent prophy. I understand that as a new hygienist that I need to learn how manage my time but I just feel like 45 minutes isn’t enough time to take blood pressure, review medical history, take radiographs, patient education, EOIO, and prophylaxis. I feel that if I continue on like this my license as a hygienist will be constantly under threat because I’m not able to do everything in 45 minutes. I haven’t had any other job offers yet and need the money. What would you do?

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3 Answers

This is a tough one! I totally understand the need to make money and be able to pay bills, put a roof over your head, and eat – I’ve been there! With that said, I learned from my first permanent job out of hygiene school that I will never take a job that doesn’t give me an hour for patient care. As you noted, skipping things puts your license at risk and can set you up for a lawsuit if you miss a suspicious lesion, don’t find perio disease, or the patient has a medical emergency because their medical history wasn’t reviewed thoroughly.
I also learned very quickly that if an office doesn’t provide the necessary equipment and instruments, not only is patient care lowered, but your risk of musculoskeletal injury risk rises immensely. This can affect you in the long run with chronic pain, surgeries, and shortening of your career. You have to ask yourself – is this office worth that to you?
Have you had a chat with the doctor about your concerns? That’s a good place to start. If nothing changes, you have to make a decision. I wrote an article about these very things that may give you some talking points to discuss with your doctor: https://www.todaysrdh.com/6-things-hygienists-wished-their-doctor-boss-knew/
When I found myself in this position, and my concerns went unheard, I continued to look for new jobs. I came home every day from work and submitted my resume until I was hired at a new office that shared my same patient care standards and had enough respect for me as a clinician and respect for patients to provide proper equipment and instruments. I’m not going to sugar coat it and say it happened quickly, but it did happen.
Have a chat with the doctor. Then ask yourself if the benefits of this office outweigh the negatives? Don’t hesitate to make a written list so you can really weigh your decision to stick with them or not.
You must do right by your patients and for your own well-being. You have to sleep at night knowing you gave your patients the best treatment you could. I wish you the best of luck!

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Hey! So last year I was facing the same difficult decision, nice coworkers, good pay, great patients, but the dentist expected me to cut a lot out of the appointment to be more efficient and only do 30 minute appointments. He argued this because he used to do all the cleanings and could get it done in that time (he conveniently forgot that he has 2 assistants to do xrays, polish, floss, etc.)
I came to this forum feeling broken and afraid. I knew I would miss important things, especially as my dentist told me to only perio chart after we diagnose them with perio! I had no other job offers and Kara here offered me incredible advice! (She is incredible, so listen to her!)
It was a big leap of faith, and I didn’t love it as much as working in a permanent office, but I started temping. It kept me afloat financially and gave me so many experiences in other offices. And, wonderfully enough, my dream office I temped at offered me a job because they saw me at work and liked me!
Temping isn’t a perfect solution, it’s sort of like a bridge to a better means but maybe you could try it. It gave me so much exposure to great offices and bad offices that I knew what to expect and what I could handle. Either way, I refuse to treat my patients like fast food customers, this is a healthcare practice, the work we do can actually save lives by preventing some bigger problems and cutting out the work time and skipping things should not be acceptable for any office!
Maybe talk to the dentist and team, share your concerns, explain how this could actually ruin productivity via patient retention. You are a valued member of the dental community and your time matters just as much as the dentist’s does! God luck! I know from experience how overwhelming it can feel newly graduated and working in ‘less than ideal’ circumstances. Be professional and aware of your needs! You’ll do great!

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Thank you so much for the advice. I decided to stay until I found something better. I’m trying to do everything I can for my patients. If I run over time a bit so be it. I know things are different out of school but I just didn’t think it would be like this. Even some of my school mates are having the same problem as me. Like you mentioned before some are getting just 30 minutes.

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