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

Reignite Your Passion for the Profession

Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and don’t hesitate to seek help if needed.

Each new year is filled with promise and the determination to overcome past challenges. In the oral healthcare profession, we typically vow to grow professionally and to stay passionate about our career. Burnout can derail those commitments, forcing us to rethink the way we practice. Burnout may even cause us to reconsider our career choice.

Dental hygiene burnout can be caused by a combination of factors, both physical and emotional. These factors involve repetitive tasks, uncomfortable and unhealthy working positions, exposure to chemicals and aerosols, long hours with demanding schedules, and more. The COVID-19 pandemic only added to those challenges.

A recent report from the Oral Health Workforce Research Center at the University of Albany highlighted how the pandemic intensified burnout issues.1 While the report analyzed oral health professionals in community health centers, the stressors were like those also experienced in private dental practices. And though the pandemic has subsided, stressors remain. How can clinicians deal with challenges and find fulfillment in their careers once again?

Let’s focus on the positive. It’s important to note that the experience of burnout can vary significantly among individuals. What might be stressful for one dental hygienist might not be a problem for another. The key is to be aware of the potential causes of burnout and to take steps to manage stress and maintain work-life balance. Dental hygiene is a wonderful profession that allows us to make a difference in patients’ lives. While no profession is perfect and all have unique complications, the rewards can be extraordinary. For a dental hygienist, there is no better feeling than helping a patient smile again after years of having unesthetic, unhealthy teeth, or to save someone’s life after detecting a cancerous lesion. We can overcome the negative aspects of our profession by realizing the positives, and that we make a difference every day. Here are some suggestions for clinicians to reignite a passion for the profession:

  • Reconnect with what you love about dental hygiene: Reflect on positive patient interactions, the impact you make on their health, and the satisfaction of a job well done.
  • Learn something new: Take a continuing education course, explore new technologies, or volunteer your skills. Adding variety and stimulating your mind can revitalize your enthusiasm.
  • Prioritize self-care: Don’t neglect your own well-being. Take breaks throughout the day, practice mindfulness or meditation, and ensure you get enough sleep and exercise.
  • Connect with colleagues: Share your ideas and successes with other dental hygienists. Building a supportive network can alleviate stress and offer valuable insights.
  • Set boundaries: Learn to say no to overtime and prioritize your personal life. A balanced schedule prevents burnout and keeps you energized.

Remember, overcoming burnout takes time and effort. Be patient with yourself, celebrate your progress, and don’t hesitate to seek help if needed. With dedication and a positive attitude, you can restore your passion for dental hygiene.

Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, FADHA
Editor in Chief
jrethman@belmontbusinessmedia.com


Reference

  1. Surdu S, Langelier M, O’Malley E, Fernando T, Pang J, Romero A. Identifying strategies to improve oral health workforce resilience. Available at: chwsny.org/our-work/reports-briefs/identifying-strategies-to-improve-oral-health-workforce-resilience. Accessed January 5, 2024.

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Jan/Feb 2024; 22(1):8

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