Confessions of New Dental Hygiene Graduates…

butterflyBy Denise Beerwald, Dip DH, BDSc, MEd, RDH (365 Exempt)

“When you find yourself cocooned in isolation and cannot find your way out of the darkness, remember that this is similar to the place where caterpillars go to grow their wings.”  ~Author Unknown

As a Dental Hygiene Educator, it is always interesting to me that the students start to become acutely aware of their impending transition right around the same time every year. It’s like a switch goes off—usually just after they find out they have passed their National Board Exams. In our dental hygiene (DH) program it’s the end of May. The students allow their brains very little time to rest and reflect on their learning experiences before they become preoccupied with what ‘real life’ practice will involve. Common lamentations of the DH students start to echo down the hallways and bounce off the classroom walls—“How am I going to do everything in an hour?!” “Is the dentist going check my work?” “What do you mean I have to see 7 or 8 patients in a day?!”

It’s an unsettling thing for most new DH graduates to think about their first day on the job. Common confessions of new DH graduates are indicative of experiences termed ‘transition shock’ in the nursing literature1 and are explained as “… initial professional adjustment in terms of the feelings of anxiety, insecurity, inadequacy and instability it produces.” 2, p.1103Important to this experience for the new graduate is the “… apparent contrast between the relationships, roles, responsibilities, knowledge and performance expectations required within the more familiar academic environment to those required in the professional practice setting.” 2, p.1105 Transitioning from student to practitioner can be a very isolating, stressful, confusing, doubt-provoking and disorienting time as students leave the structured environment of their educational institutions. These stressful experiences related to role transition have been found to be the most prevalent during the initial 12 months of practice,3  but is also an important process necessary for new graduates to ‘grow their wings.’

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The role of dental hygiene in liver transplant

BCDHA has increasingly started to expand the focus of this blog to showcase interprofessional collaboration among dental hygienists and other health professionals. In our mutual role as primary healthcare professionals, we feel it is critically important to recognize and showcase each other’s professional’s contributions related to those within our circle of care. We feel our members would be very interested in learning more about other health care practices, and how collaborative efforts with dental hygienists have enhanced the quality of life and overall health of the patients we all serve.

BCDHA thanks Jo-Ann Harrigan, Clinical Resource Nurse, Post-Liver Transplant Program for taking the time to share her story.

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