Sometimes shifting the dental practice culture in a big way can make dental hygienists feel more appreciated and do better work.
We all know it: dental practice culture has changed for dental hygienists. Right before the COVID-19 pandemic slapped us sideways, I decided to make a job change and work closer to home. I accepted a promising part-time position in a public health setting and was excited about working with patients who had more pressing and challenging oral healthcare needs.
Instead, I found myself in a setting where data collection trumped patient care. Once COVID-19 hit, I would sit in my operatory day in and day out, collecting a paycheck without seeing patients and feeling very much alone and confused. I suspect many dental hygiene clinicians felt the same way and it was an eerie time for healthcare and all of humanity. Part-time clinical positions in dental practices were not very numerous before COVID-19 but surprisingly, dental hygiene positions, part and full-time, are now more plentiful. Dental hygienists can pick and choose like they used to and find a workplace culture that works best for them.
What does workplace culture entail?
Workplace culture is how a company communicates, how it treats its employees, and what it values. Dental hygienists know that when we have the freedom to choose (or at least modify) our work style, we can do our best work. Clinical excellence is an objective for many practicing hygienists, and we take pride in good clinical outcomes. It’s not that we’re necessarily competing against each other. Instead, we’re mostly competing with ourselves and working hard to provide technical excellence, satisfactory patient relationships and best hygiene outcomes.
In chatting with other dental hygiene clinicians in a variety of practice settings, those who are thriving report certain dental hygiene practice culture characteristics that make clinical excellence and a peaceful work environment possible.
Let’s explore some of the culture characteristics that give dental hygienists a boost:
With the right workplace culture, a dental hygienist will take the initiative and individually contribute to the team’s success. A positive workplace culture raises morale, increases profitability and efficiency, and enhances retention of the dental hygienist. Reducing stress is an added bonus. Dental hygiene positions are plentiful and dental practices are now competing for dental hygienists. Strongly consider a change or shift to improve dental practice culture to accommodate dental hygienists if you wish to attract and retain the best. Self-directed dental hygienists are not a dime a dozen.