Reconnecting Practicing Hygienists with the Nation's Leading Educators and Researchers.

Embracing Change Over a Lifetime

Haven’t we all faced a multitude of challenges over a lifetime?

Sunie Keller, RN, RDH, BS, CLNC
Sunie Keller, RN, RDH, BS, CLNC

Haven’t we all faced a multitude of challenges over a lifetime? Perhaps my story of career changes and divorce will resonate with you. I found that Ihad the resilience and persistence to meet those challenges and to seek a pathway to freedom and independence.

When I entered the nursing field in 1976, I accepted the reality of working weekends and nights. However, I also knew I wanted a normal 8 to 5 job in order to be home with my family. In addition, I wanted to obtain a 4-year degree but couldn’t decide in which field. My brother-in-law was a dentist and suggested dental hygiene due to the hours and good pay. I knew if I didn’t like it, I could always return to nursing. Surprisingly, I loved both professions and have worked in both fields part-time throughout most of my career. 

After I obtained my dental hygiene license, I worked 8 to 5 in a dental practice and then I would work 7 to 11 pm at a hospital with a 12-hour shift over the weekend. I loved working a variety of jobs in clinical dental hygiene from periodontics to pediatrics,  as well as practicing as a nurse in intensive care units, urgent care, surgical settings, and in prisons. I thrived on the variety.

When my marriage ended, I decided to look into legal nurse consulting as dental hygiene jobs were scarce at the time. I spent $10,000 to obtain my certificate in legal nurse consulting and became the only legal nursing consultant with expertise in both dental malpractice and personal injury. A scientific article I wrote was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Legal Nurse Consultants, and subsequently named article of the year. I was called on to assist attorneys with dental life care plans, which again opened another career pathway for me.

Eventually, I realized that after 42 years as a dental hygienist and 45 years as a nurse, another career change was ahead of me, and I became a health coach. I continued working as a dental hygienist while also providing health coaching. Not only has it been transformative for those I have coached but for me as well. Nothing is better than receiving accolades from my health coaching clients!

Do you have a story to share? Dimensions wants to hear about you—the clinicians who perform the daily role of caring for patients and have also found an additional way to use your knowledge and skills outside of the operatory. You may be featured in a future issue. Send your story and photo to Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, at: [email protected].

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. June 2021;19(6):10.

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