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Spotlight on Clinicians: Volunteerism Opens the Door to Leadership Opportunities

Providing a critical healthcare service to patients through excellent clinical skills can be very rewarding. But you may want to add to your clinical duties and “climb the ladder.”

By Susan Donley Johnston, BSDH, RDH
By Susan Donley Johnston, BSDH, RDH

Providing a critical healthcare service to patients through excellent clinical skills can be very rewarding. But you may want to add to your clinical duties and “climb the ladder.” If so, start your journey by volunteering. I loved serving my local American Dental Hygienists’ Association component and constituent. I still do. Leadership experiences gained through volunteering gave me the courage to negotiate with my employer to add duties to my clinical position. Some of these duties included developing training programs on dental board regulatory compliance and infection control, Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations, industry innovations, and how to apply for grants available to private practices.

When the Ohio Dental Hygienists’ Association Government Relations Council asked me to serve on the Ohio Dental Board, I answered with a resounding YES! The application process was thorough, including financial disclosure, credential verification, proof that I vote in every election, and an essay on why I would be a good addition to the board. I was appointed by the governor and confirmed by the state senate. My volunteer journey continued by chairing three committees, and finally serving as vice president of the board. 

Once a dental hygienist or a dentist is appointed to a state dental board, that individual is now a board examiner. I jumped in to learn the American Board of Dental Examiners (ADEX) exam. I studied, practiced, observed, questioned, and volunteered to learn the data systems management role. My next step is starting my own consulting business, providing services and training to dental offices. How great it is to be your own boss!

Mother Teresa said “Love cannot remain by itself—it has no meaning. Love has to be put into action, and that action is service.” Service is a way that I show love. Love for my dental hygiene colleagues who worked so hard to earn their degrees and then face frequent challenges to their licenses. Love for the people of my state who trust us and want excellent healthcare, but often do not know whether their care is adequate. Dental hygienist colleagues, please remember—be confident, volunteer, accept leadership roles, take chances, and, as Mother Teresa also said, “Do all things with great love.”

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. Reach out to Editor in Chief Jill Rethman, RDH, BA, at: [email protected].

From Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. March 2022; 20(3)10.

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