In 2015, I was selected to be a part of the Colgate Oral Health Advisor (COHA) board. This was a highlight of my career! During that time I met dental hygienists from all over the United States. Ten dental hygienists in one room that varied in age, years of clinical experience, type of practice and each individual brought a different passion for the dental hygiene profession. For me the best part of that experience was the professional relationships that were formed.
Prior to being a member of the 2015 COHA board I did not have professional relationships outside of the office, and began to explore ways to expand my network beyond the four walls where I was practicing. I rejoined the ADHA, NJDHA, and my local hygiene component. I began attending dental hygiene conventions and joined several RDH groups on different social media platforms.
This past year has brought several new challenges into our profession that our colleagues can empathize with. Collaboration with other dental hygienists provides encouragement and support, especially during difficult times.
Staying in contact with colleagues who are spread out across the country can provide a fresh perspective on dental hygiene related topics. They can share their stories of how their office is handling "the new normal" and other current issues such as PPE shortages, how they are staying hydrated throughout the day or how they execute Covid-19 screenings prior to patient care. In return, it may be your experience that helps a colleague solve something they are struggling with.
Here are some suggestions to help you get connected with other dental hygienists:
Join an online dental hygiene community. For example, the COHA Facebook community is a great place to start! This community is designed to be a positive outlet and resource for dental hygienists. There you will find dental hygienists from all over the country who share stories and ask thought-provoking questions. Additionally, you can join the new #COHAStories on Instagram where you will find uplifting posts and information to keep you in the know.
Attend a dental hygiene conference. There are many dental hygiene conferences that take place throughout the year. Throughout the pandemic many of those have been offered as virtual meetings and as we move forward through this year some of those meetings are now being offered in a hybrid format. For example, the ADHA meeting and RDH Under One Roof are both offering an in person meeting and a virtual option.
Join the ADHA. The American Dental Hygiene Association is a network of dental hygienists across the country. You can be involved a local, state and/or national level. Your membership with the ADHA provides an invaluable network that supports collaboration within our profession. The ADHA supports lifelong learning through continuing education courses and peer reviewed journals.
We are fortunate to have virtual options that allow us to stay connected with our colleagues despite the distance between us. Staying connected can help to alleviate stress, offer alternate solutions in difficult circumstances and offer empathetic support. A network of dental hygienists will also be there to celebrate with you when you advance in your career and for clinical successes! If you aren't already connected, I encourage you to find a community of dental hygienists and get connected today, the outcome will be priceless!