Expanding your skillset
Look at failures
Career Opportunities Outside the Op
Michelle Strange: A Tale of Two Hygienists presents this week’s TIPisode: quick and easy tips to keep you up to date and presented by the experts in the profession. Now, get ready for your unofficial TIPisode.
Teresa Duncan: Hi. This is Teresa Duncan with the Nobody Told Me That! podcast and also the Chew on This podcast. Both can be found on the Dental Podcast Network.
I’m here today to talk to you about burning out and losing your way. I am hoping that none of you are feeling this, but the reality is many of you are. I know this year has brought an awful lot of roller coaster emotions, and you just can’t help but feel them at some point. If this feels like you, if you feel that you are about to burn out, let’s talk about this for a little bit.
When I was on a forum recently that I visit often, I was reading about how this one woman was having a hard time with goals and getting excited about setting goals for the next year. It hit me hard because I know what she’s talking about. I understand what she’s talking about.
Her comment was “Do I really care about meeting end-of-year goals? Does it matter if I miss a deadline by a day or two? These things just don’t seem as serious to me anymore, and it’s because of what’s going on in our environment.”
You know, we have new administration coming in. We have vaccine [sic]. We have the pandemic. All of it has weighed heavy on our minds because we’ve had to make a lot of choices with as much information as we have at the time. That’s not a normal year. You know, we kind of have a plan when we start out with the year, and we know where we’re going. This year has taught us that we need to be nimble and we need to be able to flex very quickly. But what happens if that flex is not as comfortable as you thought it would be? Bear with me a little bit, and let me see if I can explain that.
You know, we are all very positive people. We are always seeking to expand ourselves. Now, I know this because you’re listening to a podcast probably in your off hours. People who have no drive don’t do that. So I know that I’m speaking to the type of person that does have drive and that does want to succeed and do better.
However, when you have so many outside influences on you and it really starts to wear on you, that’s when you can start slowing down whereas your normal speed was, you know, full steam ahead because so much was going on. However, now you can’t go full steam ahead because you have to look at this rule, you have to look at this regulation, you have to make sure you have PPE, you have to make sure the schedule is full, you have to make sure that the patient is not showing any symptoms. There’s just so much involved with actually seeing a patient nowadays that it just feels like there’s a lot going on. There’s a battle.
So, if that was pretty much what you were thinking in your mind, you’re not alone. I’ve had a lot of phone calls with a lot of friends in the dental industry, both consultants, speakers — oh, I’m sorry, and then also, of course, people who work in the offices. What I’m hearing from everyone is that they’re looking for a new start in 2021. And that’s all fine. That’s great. I definitely have plans for 2021. I’ve set some goals. But really on January 1st, December 31st is not that far of a distant memory. So it may not completely turn the page. However, we do need to look ahead and see if we can make 2021 the best year, almost like what 2020 was supposed to be.
You know, I heard this from very many people that 2020 was supposed to be the best year that they had. Their offices were going to have the best year ever. This was the year they were going to meet their goals. This was the year they were going on a trip as an office. This was the year, this was the year, this was the year. That’s what I heard from so many people. And I know I had said it myself at home a lot, and my husband and my son are definitely very patient in that regard and — because really — when you have the bottom cut out from under you, you really are trying to find your way for quite a while.
Let’s talk about how we can refocus and maybe bring something new into the mix. I’m guessing that many of you realized that perhaps dentistry may need to change, or your role in dentistry may need to change, or you may just want to do something different in your office. You don’t want to go anywhere. You just want to do something different.
I heard from a lot of you that there was a chance to take CE that you didn’t have before because we were all home, right? Well, I also heard that that piqued your interest in a lot of different modalities. I know for myself I was taking a lot more classes in different subjects than just management and insurance, which are my go-tos. I was spreading out a little bit. I actually went back and took some clinical courses. Even though I used to be an assistant a gazillion years ago, it was really good to sit and watch an endo case again. It was really good to sit and watch some implants going in.
And I have to tell you it sort of gave me a little bit of a spark, and that’s what I wanted to relay to you. If you have something that you’ve been wanting to go back and look at again, maybe this is a direction you’d like to go in. Maybe this is the year that you incorporate lasers into your office if you’re, of course, able to do so according to state law. Is this the year that you look into expanding a little bit?
I’ll tell you another very practical reason why this has come up with so many people. When the shutdown happened, there were quite a few of all of us that realized that their jobs may not be there when offices reopened, if the offices reopened. I know — here in Northern Virginia, I know of at least three offices that had to close because they just didn’t have the funds to continue to go on even with the loans. They were already in a lot of debt. And I know that’s at least three just in this area, and I’ve heard of countless others across the country, which is definitely heartbreaking.
So some of you may have realized “Okay. I’ve been at this office for a while. I love this office. But you know what? I have to make sure that my family gets fed, that I can take care of myself. Let me see if I can add a little bit onto the resume so that I am an attractive candidate down the road.” And you know what? That’s not being disloyal.
That was one conversation I had with a girl that I coach. She’s actually in a different position — she’s not a hygienist. She’s an assistant — and she was saying, “I feel like if I study up on something else, I feel like I’m betraying my employer.” Well, you know, you could tell your employer what’s going on.
I don’t know your personal situation. In this situation, there was no reason why she couldn’t tell her employer. She just felt like she was hiding something. But, in reality, what she was doing was making sure that she was employable should anything happen. And she really just wanted to stretch. She wanted to stretch her wings. She was learning how to help the dentist with CAD/CAM dentistry, and she was taking extra classes and going through that. Hopefully, she’ll be able to add some really nice skills onto her resume.
So let’s talk about what you as hygienists — because I know that’s A Tale of Two Hygienists — that’s your — that’s their core audience. What can you as hygienists do to maybe expand a little bit? And I know you get lots of good ideas from the regular podcast and from other hygiene speakers, but let me see if I can give it to you from a manager’s point of view and also somebody who teaches CE a lot, who studies CE a lot. I’m a CE junkie. I think a lot of you are.
Well, I know that there is a lot of — there are a lot of procedures out there that you may not be able to do. Of course you’re not assisting in them. But it’s really important to know what happens behind the scenes so that you can talk to your patients with confidence about this.
Now, for my younger hygienists, of course this is valuable knowledge. And, if you’re in an office that is — maybe you have a dentist who refers out a lot, that doesn’t like to do a lot of endo, maybe only does one-canal possibly two-canal endos. The wide world of endo is amazing, especially when you get to finding and chasing down that fourth canal. Even though you’re not assisting for that, being able to speak about that is really impressive, especially when you’re trying to talk to a patient.
Now, I am not excluding older hygienists. I know I’m in that category too. We’ve seen it and we’ve talked about it so often we kind of forget that this is something new for the people who are just coming in and coming out.
So, endo. Of course they’re using a lot of microscopes in endo. It’s getting really exciting. I know there’s laser applications as well, so maybe seek that out. Perhaps you take a look at lasers.
Let’s talk about lasers, for example. I know many of you are in general practices. You might be in a perio practice. You might be in an oral surgeon’s office. And why am I saying oral surgeon? Well, I’m seeing a lot of offices that are hybrids. They have a little bit of everything. They’re multi-specialty practices. You might find yourself in one of those practices, and if you have no idea how to explain endo to a patient, that’s — that may hurt you on the interviews.
I know some of these interviews are getting to be more and more comprehensive. It’s not just the regular “tell me what you want to do in life.” It’s actually going over your skills and what you know. And you are going to be able to knock it out of the park if you just take some time and learn a little bit more about it. Lasers too.
So lasers, of course, are being used for not only soft tissue as we’re used to but hard tissue too. And, if you’re going into pediatrics, that’s a big deal. The laser’s not much pain. They can cut right through that tooth. It’s actually pretty cool. Frenectomies are another thing that they are used for. There’s all sorts of videos all over YouTube and Rumble that will show you all of these different procedures.
Again, I would take a look at the endo. I would take a look at the lasers. I would also take a look at the milling of crowns, the same day. Have you seen that happen from beginning to end? And I know that a lot of it is just the machine going “wah, wah, wah.” You don’t want to stand there for that. I get that. But have you seen it when it goes in, some of the milling procedures, and then when it comes out? It’s pretty interesting.
And, if you’re artistic at all, maybe you like the shading. Maybe you like all of that. I’m going to suggest something to you. If you want to get out of the office to kind of a field trip, ask your lab if you are able to go in there and take a look around. In my experience — I have done this with a couple offices where we’ve done field trips, and my experience, the labs are loving having you come in, taking a look at all of their information. Sometimes they’ll hide things from you because of HIPPA concerns, but a lot of times you can get into those rooms, the climate-controlled rooms with the big machines, and it’s really very cool to see that happen.
And you know what? You’re learning something new. Being able to talk to a patient and say, “You know, I’ve been to these places where they make the crowns. It’s amazing what they do there,” that gives you a little bit of an extra edge when you’re talking to patients about their treatment plan and/or just recommending treatment to them.
Now, I also would urge you to take a look at failures. So this is something if you’re in for a laugh, you know, go — head over to the YouTube or Rumble and type in “dental fails.” Now, I don’t mean for you to laugh at the techniques and kind of, like, gasp in horror, but what I want you to do is take a look at the techniques and say to yourself how would you have done them? How would you have recommended treatment? How would you have actually done the procedure?
Now, for my new up-and-coming hygienists, you may not have that much experience on exactly what the protocols are with all of these non-hygiene appointments. But, for the seasoned people out there — again, I count myself in this — you may want to take a look at it and kind of think about how would you have done that? And I don’t know if I would have recommended that over that.
You know, I’m not saying you’re going to get the right answer because a lot of times the right answer isn’t posted on the video, but it’s kind of fun taking a look at what goes on in other offices, other operatories, and seeing if you can guess where they’re going with it.
And then, just for fun, you can scroll down to the comments and just see for yourself the doctors kind of duking it out on what the technique is. But more importantly — and this I would take — I would really read on these. You can see the questions from patients, patients who kind of find this because they’re searching for root canals. You know, they’re in pain. You can see the questions that come from these patients, and you can see they are very confused on what we do. And, remember, when you’re talking to a patient, your average patient is probably going to be someone like that. And, if YouTube is the only way they’re going to learn, that’s a shame. I’d rather you be the one who’s able to do that.
So I wanted to just finish off by giving you an idea of what are the other career opportunities out there if you are looking to get out of the operatory.
One of the most surprising parts of venturing outside the operatory is realizing that insurance companies do hire hygienists. You can go to — find out what the big insurance companies are in your area. Ask your administrator, your insurance coordinator. They’ll tell you. They know. Go to their websites. Many times they’re looking at claims adjudicators, claims auditors. So you’re not approving the claims. You’re not denying the claims. Perhaps you’re auditing the process of it. Perhaps you’re a part of the appeals process. Perhaps you are on the floor talking to other provider’s offices.
Most of the insurance company representatives I know and have met on the road and that I count as friends, almost all of them started in a dental office. They do not come from outside the industry most of the time. They come up through dental. There’s no reason why that shouldn’t be you if you’re so inclined.
I also would have you take a look at whether or not you’re really good with something like, say, CareCredit or Dentrix or Eagle Soft because any of those softwares — any of those services will need trainers. And, now with everybody staying home, a lot of these reps aren’t able to go into the office. A lot of them are looking for liaisons. A lot of them are looking to hire.
CareCredit, I know it depends on the region. Some there’s a hiring freeze, and some they’re really looking for others — more people. But what about Dentrix? Dentrix training is something that you can get trained on. They have robust programs on that. And I would say — thinking right now of four different Dentrix trainers that I know, and they’re all former hygienists. So that is something that you can talk about as well.
And on the totally different side, I’m going to end with asking you how creative you are. If you’re creative, if you like the art, if you like Canva — if you don’t know what Canva is, you may not be this person. If you like Canva, if you like creating, there is a whole new world out there of people who are helping offices with their social media and with their tracking of the social media metrics, the Instagram, the Facebook posts and ads and all of that. If you’re creative and you’re really good at coming up with these graphics, I think there’s an opportunity for you.
I know from talking to consultants and speakers, my colleagues, that we are always looking for good VAs. We are always looking for people who are good at doing the creative part. You know, some of us are good at speaking but not great with design, and you might be able to help out with that. So, if that’s something that you’re looking at doing, please reach out to me because I do always hear from other colleagues of mine that are saying, “Do you know anybody who can do this? Do you know anybody who could do that?” And maybe I know somebody who is looking for that.
So virtual assisting and social media management are two different types of being in the dental industry without being in the operatory. However, they can also be a really good alternative to a fixed schedule. You can do this from home, work from home.
I want to end with saying that if you do feel like you’re burning out and you’re losing your way, it really does take a focus of something else to help you with this. If you’re getting burnt out, it’s because your mind is going over and over again on the things that you need to do, the things that aren’t getting done, and what’s going on here, what am I going to do? That all spirals. I know this because I’ve gone through it a couple times myself in 2020. I’m also looking forward to 2021, but I also know there’s going to be some bumpy times.
So taking that focus away from all of these problems, it’s been helpful to focus on something else. And I’ll share. We adopted a rescue dog, and I’ve been able to focus a lot on him. He’s had a lot of issues, and we’ve had to do a lot of training. That has been a distraction and a focus. Maybe for you taking that different CE, playing around with Canva, looking at what other opportunities are out there for you, maybe that can distract you. Or you may just want to pick up some knitting. That’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Perhaps you take up photography. Photography is something that is very popular nowadays, and there’s so many good tutorials on it.
I’m telling you, though, if you are burning out, you’re not alone. But that also means that you should talk to somebody about it or at least resolve to try to make something different in the next month. I’m not trying to tell you to go the whole year, but I want you to set some goals that you’re going to do something different in the next month. And I hope that something different is distracting enough for you so that we can refocus on what makes you the best version of you possible.
So, again, my name is Teresa Duncan. I do run two podcasts: Nobody Told Me That!, which is insurance and management and leadership, and also, I co-host Chew on This with my friend Kevin Henry. We talk about dental news. You can find both of those on the Dental Podcast Network.
Until the next TIPisode. Thank you so much for listening.
Michelle Strange: We hope you enjoyed this week’s TIPisode. Be sure to reach out to our guest experts and let them know how helpful their tips were. Follow A Tale of Two Hygienists on Facebook, Instagram, and head over to ataleoftwohygienists.com and subscribe to our newsletter. You can also email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and keep listening for more awesome content from your unofficial dental hygiene podcast.