One hygienist paid the price but still feels she did the right thing in her situation.
I heard a sobering story recently. A dental hygienist shared that she had been fired for protecting her license. It made me think about how we need to trust our instincts. Sometimes that has ugly consequences. But sometimes you must do the right thing. Unfortunately, this time it cost the hygienist her job.
Serena, who asked that her name be changed, has been a dental hygienist for 5 years. She lives in a small town and likes the work she does. This is a 1-dentist operation. The problem is that this dentist, whom we’ll call Dr Smith, DDS, is terrible at communicating with his staff. He decided to go on a trip to Hawaii, prior to the tragic fires, and did not tell his staff that he was taking time off.
His staff count on their hours to pay their bills. If the doctor were paying everyone to take some time off, that would be one thing. But to take vacation time without realizing the financial impact it had on his staff was disturbing. Confused, Serena approached Dr Smith and was told not to worry about it. He would take care of everything.
Serena knew she needed to protect her license at all costs. She knew she could not see a patient without the doctor in the office if they had not been there in the past year for a complete and thorough examination or if they were a complex patient. She just wanted to know someone would there be covering for Dr Smith.
Dr Smith did have a plan. He had a retired dentist come in to cover his 2-week vacation. Unfortunately, the retired dentist was recuperating from a broken arm, which was still in the cast. He also brought his Great Dane, who roamed freely throughout the office. Serena was concerned that not everyone enjoyed dogs coming up to them and sniffing them. Some patients complained that they did not feel it was sanitary because the dog was not on a leash or near his owner.
Serena was concerned that this was not a safe plan. She looked at the patients scheduled and felt that they should be moved to a time when the dentist was back. When she voiced this to the office manager, she was told to “do whatever you want.” She decided this was not safe, finished her patients for the day, and left. On the way out, the office manager told her, “Don’t bother coming back.” Serena was not sure but thought she had been fired.
She emailed the dentist while he was on vacation, and he stated, that no one fires in his practice but him, and he would investigate when he returns. He told her not to return to the office until he got back and said he would pay for the next couple of days for her to be off.
Upon his return, she was notified that she was being fired. There was no phone call and no attempt to address or resolve this issue. She was in shock and felt that her license would have been at risk if something had happened to a patient.
When I spoke with Serena, she was feeling a whole multitude of emotions. Confusion and anger were the strongest. She did the right thing and protected her license. But here she was applying for jobs on Indeed and worried she would not make rent this month. There are consequences to everything. The key is to do what is right. Do not jeopardize your license for anyone, even the boss. This was excruciatingly painful, and she wanted to share this nightmare with her peers.
What do you think? What would you have done? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts.