A dentist in a hygienist’s world

March 21, 2012

When I first arrived at the CareerFusion meeting in January, my main focus was on the networking I was about to do to further my personal goals in dentistry. What I got was a whole lot more. Throughout the four-and-a-half-day meeting, there were plenty of opportunities for personal development, career enhancing education and a warmth and camaraderie that I have never felt at any other meeting I have attended in dentistry.

When I first arrived at the CareerFusion meeting in January, my main focus was on the networking I was about to do to further my personal goals in dentistry. What I got was a whole lot more.

Throughout the four-and-a-half-day meeting, there were plenty of opportunities for personal development, career enhancing education and a warmth and camaraderie that I have never felt at any other meeting I have attended in dentistry.

For those of you who don’t know what CareerFusion is, it’s a learning continuum for health care professionals who are looking to enhance their career options. The group gathers once a year in Daytona Beach, Fla., for a retreat, and most of the attendees are hygienists.  

So why would a dentist want to be part of it? For many years I have felt there is something else I wanted to accomplish besides purely clinical dentistry.  I reached out to Shirley Gutkowski, one of the founders of CareerFusion, and she told me this was the only meeting she knew of in the industry that placed an emphasis on networking for growth in dentistry.  So I decided to take the plunge. Here is what I found in five days in Florida:

A warm welcome

I was among the first three dentists to attend this meeting.  There were close to 100 hygienists and corporate sponsors there, but I was the first of the dentists to ever go.  I never had a chance to wonder if I would fit in because all of the women at the meeting made sure I knew how much they appreciated having me there. 

Personal development

The event was designed to make sure we all got the most out of our time in Daytona. We had five “tracks” to choose from during the meeting, all designed to help us prepare for a particular skill set. Speaking, writing, sales, business and clinical were our choices. The tracks were designed to encourage participation to help us get the most out of the track we were in.

To be honest, what you are reading is the result of what I learned during the writing track.  I had no idea what you had to go through to be published.  While the writing track focused mostly on professional or peer-to-peer type articles, we even talked about writing advertorials for local newspapers.

I also took the track that focused on speaking and presenting to an audience.  Again, lots of useful information…what I learned here is it takes preparation to make sure a presentation is what you want it to be. 

The table talks

The career enhancing activities were done in a way I had never been exposed to before. We had table talks each day with the meeting’s corporate sponsors. We were always in the same group, and our group had our two fearless facilitators, Rhoda and Liz.  Rhoda and Liz made sure all the pertinent points about each presentation were covered.  After the second or third roundtable our group had a really great comfort level and we just let it fly.  The corporate sponsors were equally gracious with their time, staying as long as we needed them to so we could ask all of our questions. 

But here is what really impressed me with the table talks.  We got the first look at two brand new products, products that were developed as a direct result of the table talks the year before.  The hygienists were grateful to know their input was not only heard, but also acted on.  Talk about respect.

A strong bond

Let’s get into the best part of the meeting and why, in my humble opinion, this was the best dental meeting I have attended in my 30 years of practicing. The people, and I mean all the Careerfusionistas (that’s what WE call ourselves) and the corporate sponsors.  We ate most of our meals together and I tried to find someone different to sit and talk with every time. (The first morning when I was shy, no problem, someone told me to sit with her).  Everyone gave of their time and no one said “no” if you needed to talk to them.  Everybody wants everybody else to succeed, no matter where their interests lie.

A new outlook

I walked out of that meeting with a different take on hygienists.  It is very difficult to find a neutral place to discuss issues with team members that you work with everyday.  I am still the boss and the hygienists are the hygienists.  But at CareerFusion I was able to network with hygienists as my peers and to see some of their issues through their eyes and not my doctor eyes.  I certainly can see this helping me in the years to come.

To me, this meeting is like being in the womb of a loving and kind world of hygienists, and after the meeting it was like I was born again.  But there is still part of me that wants to get back into the warmth of the womb.  I guess I will have to wait until next year’s meeting.