I am a young dental hygienist who has been teaching full time at a community college for 3 1/2 years. Academia has allowed me to develop my leadership skills, teaching ability, and curriculum development skills. One of the highlights of my career was developing a new course and implementing it into our program. However, the cultural environment has taken a toll on my passion and drive in academia. Granted, challenges are expected in workplace bureaucracy. Unfortunately, innovation, creativity, and involvement with our professional association is frowned upon. After reading the ADHA’s white paper, I realized that the desire I have to further progress our curriculum will never be shared by my institution. I am ready to move on to another institute but there are no other available opportunities in my state and I am currently working on my master’s degree. Would it look unfavorable on my CV to leave academia to return to clinical practice in the interim as I seek another educational opportunity? Have you ever experienced a similar working environment (academia, clinical practice, etc)? How did you overcome it? The environment has become “stifling” and I do not want it to affect the love I have for my profession and professional organization.
One of the things I have learned in my career as an academician is that change is hard. I have also learned that the education community in any given discipline is small. So, I would try to make sure I have positive relationships with my current colleagues. Maybe there is an ally who is interested in working on a small change project with yo—a pilot project. I think it is easiest to go to a new teaching position from a teaching position. But, if that becomes impossible, leave on the best terms possible and begin your search for your new position. Best wishes in your search!
Sadly, dental hygiene education is not unlike other workplaces, and the fact that you recognize that it is stifling your creativity and enthusiasm makes me say RUN don’t walk! We NEED folks like you in dental hygiene education so, hopefully, there will be a place and time when you are able to come back. Many of us have distance/online programs—so don’t discount the chance to find a position in that environment where moving doesn’t become necessary in order to stay in dental hygiene education. I don’t think clinical practice is ever looked down on in a CV. Dental hygiene education prefers applicants who have real-world experience. Again, I am not convinced that there aren’t opportunities out there for you to remain in education. Have you thought about doing continuing education? This would be a great way to stay in touch with those academic skills.
Thank you for sharing your thoughts, concerns, and experience as a young dental hygiene faculty member. Your passion and vision will carry you forward and will open new opportunities for you as your career unfolds. Congratulations on pursuing your master’s degree, too! Having an advanced degree tremendously helps you pursue myriad career and leadership opportunities. You’re doing so many right things and asking the right questions. I have found throughout my career that having a well-rounded CV that includes clinical practice was important so I don’t think you’re making a “mistake” by returning to clinical practice while you’re pursuing another educational opportunity. Look for unique clinical practice settings that will add to your knowledge base. For example, pursue a position in a group periodontal practice that is known for excellence in the community. Dental hygienists and your local dental hygiene society will be a great resource for you. You might also consider a Dental Service Organization (DSO) group practice that will give you career advancement opportunities in the management arena. All of us have experienced a negative environment at various times in our career. Ironically, those negative environments have been meaningful to me as they clearly made me see where I did not want to be, who I did not want to become, and refueled my passion to make a difference in my profession. I hear that same passion in your words. I often recommend to young dental hygienists to “find your tribe” of others in our profession who share your vision and passion. They are out there and they are likely also looking for you. Thank you for reading and supporting our Transforming DH Education White Paper! I’m so glad to hear that you connect to the paper and are energized to transform dental hygiene education and practice. If there is anything I, or my staff at ADHA, can do to help you please feel free to reach out to us. We so appreciate your membership in ADHA and all you do for our profession.
If you leave your academic position on a positive note and continue to be involved in education in some way or you network with your local dental hygiene component, I don’t think your education career will be damaged by returning to clinical practice for a time. I left academia for almost 4 years to pursue leadership positions in the state and to be involved in dental hygiene politics. Because of these activities, I was actively recruited to return to academia, even before I planned to do so.