3 ways that dental assistants can grow in their careers

May 26, 2015
Kevin Henry
Issue 5

I am by no means a gardener. Never have been. Never will be. I’m the guy you wouldn’t leave a cactus with while you went out of town for a week-long vacation because it would somehow be dead when you got back home. I have no green thumb. It’s more like the black thumb of death when it comes to plants.

I am by no means a gardener. Never have been. Never will be. I’m the guy you wouldn’t leave a cactus with while you went out of town for a week-long vacation because it would somehow be dead when you got back home. I have no green thumb. It’s more like the black thumb of death when it comes to plants.

My wife, however, is the exact opposite. She has a vision for our home garden and yard and, every spring, it becomes a beautiful reality. She has a real talent for knowing which plants and flowers will work best in what soil and in what sunlight. I merely provide the manual labor to help plant, weed, and mow the yard.

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The other day I noticed she was taking the gardening shears to the rose bushes and cutting off what seemed to be perfectly good parts of them. I have to admit I was a little confused. The woman who was so nurturing with her plants was suddenly whacking them down to size. I gulped and quickly raced through my mind, “Did I say something wrong? Did I forget to take out the trash? Did I watch Monday Night Raw too long last night?”

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When I asked her what she was doing, she told me she was pruning the roses. She went on to tell me that it’s a very natural part of the growth process. In order for new growth to happen, you sometimes have to cut back parts of the plant, even parts that seemingly are already growing and thriving.

As I thought about it, I realized that that same kind of pruning can apply to us personally as well. There are all sorts of things that are attached to us (bad memories, self-doubt, people that hold us back, etc.) that need to be detached before we can move forward and grow. Think about the things in your life that hold you back from reaching your full potential. What is it that you could prune that would help you grow?

One thing that all dental assistants should prune is the thought that, “I’m just a dental assistant.” You are never JUST a dental assistant. You are THE dental assistant. You are THE person who drives the dental practice. You are THE person who is trusted by a patient when a tough decision has to be made. You are THE person who makes the practice run. Don’t limit yourself in your own mind.

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Do you want to grow as a dental assistant? Here are three quick and easy ways.

1. Find out what you can legally do in your own state by visiting DANB.org, then make a game plan on how you can reach your full potential. Talk to your dentist. Research CE courses. Think about the business side of your decision for the practice. If you can legally do a procedure in your state, how could that help the practice grow? By thinking this through and presenting a business plan to the dentist, you become an even more valued member of the team.

2. Join your local, state, or national dental assisting association. No person is an island … and that definitely includes dental assistants. When I lecture to dental assistants, I am surprised to see how many don’t network with other assistants. You’re missing out on a great resource if you’re not already doing this! You’d be surprised how many trials and tribulations you face on a daily basis that the assistant down the street or across town has already battled and beaten. Reach out and find your local and/or state chapter. Join the American Dental Assistants Association. Don’t be an island.

3. Think of your job as a career. What would happen if you poured everything you had professionally into your job? What would happen if you said, “Today, I want to become the best dental assistant in the world” and pursued that dream? Don’t look at what you do as a job. Look at it as a way to help people and make a difference in so many lives.

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It’s not often that I will quote Tupac Shakur in this medium, but I do like this quote, “I want to grow. I want to be better. You grow. We all grow. We're made to grow. You either evolve or you disappear.” 

Today, make the choice to grow. It will be one of the best professional decisions you’ve ever made.