My name is Sandra Navarro and I am an RDH pursuing a bachelor’s degree in dental hygiene at Farmingdale State College. I was directed here as part of my class assignment. My question for you all is when did you realize that it was time to move on from clinical hygiene? What was the deciding factor that made you choose your new field? Do you ever miss working directly with patients? I am interested in corporate, but I’m having trouble with the idea of leaving behind my clinical career.
Thank you in advance for your answers!
You don’t have to give up clinical! I am a professor/director of a dental hygiene program. When I first started I knew I wanted to teach—hygienists are natural educators. So I did clinical and teaching part time then shifted to full time.
You’ll know it’s time when you want to take all your gained knowledge in clinical and give back. To me, it was a great combination. It opened many doors including promotion, insight to legislative activities, and meeting amazing colleagues and mentors.
Additionally, I have many colleagues in corporate that are academic educators. They come into programs and teach faculty and students their clinical expertise. Example Hu-Friedy—typically only hygienists and they are experts. So the clinical is not lost but an asset to teach.
Again you may find you start part time so you can have the best of both worlds. If you are not involved in your professional organization, I strongly suggest you do so—doors open in networking.
Good luck in your journey.
For me, I was not looking for an opportunity at the time, but as a result of another interaction, I came into contact with the leadership of my organization and began discussions on how I could contribute to their organization. I think it’s important to remember that your “clinical knowledge” is what will propel you into a different aspect of the profession. I always say that if I was not a dental hygienist first, I would not have landed in the role. If you keep up your knowledge and understanding of what’s going on in the profession, including membership in the American Dental Hygienists\’ Association, you will be able to contribute without seeing patients every day. Think of it as practicing with a different side of your brain. Good luck! Don’t beat yourself up and think you are not a dental hygienist anymore if you have aspirations to do something more—it’s just different not more or less or good or bad…..just different.
I knew before I left dental hygiene school that I did not want to be a clinician forever. During dental hygiene school, I always volunteered for all outside activities, such as going into classrooms to provide oral health education and to PTA meetings to explain to parents why it is important for their child to use fluoride toothpaste and go to a dentist regularly. Although I liked working 1:1 with my patients, it wasn’t enough. When I was invited to be on the faculty, I took it and loved working with students. Ultimately, I found public health and like it even more. Overall, I spent relatively little time in clinical dental hygiene, and I have never regretted it because one can do more at the community level than on a 1:1 level with a patient. Obviously, we need both and we need dental hygiene in the corporate world. Go for it! best wishes.
My question for you all is how did you know when it was time for you to leave the clinical side of dental hygiene to pursue a new career path?
When I was interviewing for dental hygiene school, and met the program director. She was so impressive and you could tell she loved her job and that she was so passionate about dental hygiene. It was then that I wanted to teach and direct and yet I have always continued practicing clinically, I still love it!!!
Did you feel sad or miss working directly with patients?
You can do both.
How did you know what career path to pursue outside of clinical hygiene?
I knew about teaching and directing early on, but I have worked in various settings: nursing homes, Head Start, school based, military base, prison, VA hospital, clinical for patients with developmental disabilities, private and public practice, written textbooks, conducted research, board and officer positions, legislative task forces, etc.There are tons of options!!! Keep reaching and advancing the education helps as well!
You do not need to to give up patient care. I’ve worked in academia and now in dental public health as a project manager for a national center and still see patients 1 to 2 Saturdays each month and volunteer at clinical no-cost events when I can. I’ve done this because I enjoy patient care and because I want to keep my clinical skills sharp. That’s one of the wonderful things about dental hygiene, you can have variety!