It has been just over one year since I anxiously awaitedadwycdcfvytewywbxzefcx my collaborative supervision approval from the South Dakota State Board of Dentistry. I remember feeling worried that something would hold it up, that it wouldn’t be accepted. I remember taking some time too, to relax and review all that I had completed and experienced along the way to that point.
I considered every step that I had taken and contemplated how I could have approached it differently. I did not do this to get down on myself and find all the things that did not work out; instead I did this so that I could pick out those things that worked really well. I knew that there were many aspects of this process that I could improve upon, and I certainly wanted to improve those, but I did not want to change what did not need to be changed.
This is something that I have continually been doing throughout the process. I have tweaked everything from my paperwork to my perspective since then. Some processes are working great, some I still feel could use some work and I continue to consider changes to those. Many of these things I have sought outside input on, asking people to review things and give me their honest opinion on how they may or may not be meeting the needs of this journey.
I have also needed to make some internal changes. Changes in my expectations, my perspectives, my wants, my purpose. I find that it is important to review all of these things regularly, as I do not wish to start straying off the original path of drive and determination that brought me this far. These internal checks for me range from day to day, and quite honestly, from moment to moment.[Native Advertisement]
In that moment I was ready to hand my key back over, gather my equipment, and leave. I felt if I could not make a noticeable difference, then how was this benefiting anyone?!
For example, you may have read my recent article in which I discuss my patient “Fred” and my frustrations with that situation. The rollercoaster I rode that day went a bit like this: Initially I was saddened by Fred’s oral condition, and since this was not the first time I had seen him, I felt like I had failed him. In that moment I was ready to hand my key back over, gather my equipment, and leave. I felt if I could not make a noticeable difference, then how was this benefiting anyone?!
As the appointment progressed I became upset and angry at the staff for not taking care of Fred. But here, especially here, I had to really consider why the care may not be being provided. I have never worked on staff at a nursing facility, and I have no knowledge of what tasks are expected or what stresses come along with that profession. To be fair to the staff, I have not given the proper time and training to them to have them provide the level of oral care that I would like to see. Even if I had, that does not provide them more time in the day to carry out ideal oral care and everything else that is expected of them. It was unfair of me to become so upset at the staff.
Eventually I came back around and reminded myself that I can only do what I can do for Fred in the time that I have with him. The aspects that involve his oral health outside of my appointment with him is another approach to this journey, one that I have not actively pursued to this point.
When I contemplate my initial goal in wanting to pursue this journey, there are a few aspects I consider. My initial thought was to take advantage of the work that the South Dakota Dental Hygienists’ Association had done years before in making the collaborative supervision an option. (This reminds me a bit of the more nationwide discussion of the new gingivitis code—if we have it we should use it. What good does the opportunity do if no one uses it?!) Nursing home access-to-care issues seemed to be the most obvious need, and I honestly did not stop and consider any other option to utilize this supervision model.
After spending many moments considering opportunities and how to fully realize my goal, I am finding that there are many areas in which I can see this type of supervision arrangement working out. Areas that I can envision a dental hygienist providing greater access to care, preventive care, education, advocacy, and much more. All of this translates into aspects of my goals, addressing access to care, providing greater employment opportunities for fellow dental hygienists, and a more recently realized goal, improving the foundation of knowledge of oral health within my community.
When I started this journey, I knew I would have to make changes to my initial plans. I never intended to be content with the progress that I make, only because it does not stop there—it can always continue to make an impact.
I never imagined the opportunities that have been presented to me to be a voice for this process. I have received multiple emails, texts, Facebook messages, and phone calls that provide encouragement, much-needed perspective, well received and considered criticism, and questions. I have shared my experiences time and again and provided insight to others following a similar path. Please feel free to contact me; I am open to any message or question you may wish to share with me. Find me on Facebook or email me at [email protected]. As always, thank you for following along!
Editor’s note: This article first appeared in RDH eVillage. Click here to subscribe.
After 6 years of full-time clinical practice, Amy Ericks, RDH, BSDH, decided to pursue a journey to bring dental hygiene services to a long-term care facility. This often-neglected population has been on her mind for some time, and she is humbled to be able to be making a difference in their care. Here she walks us through her journey as she navigates this exciting new career path, stumbling blocks and all. She is also currently the president-elect of the South Dakota Dental Hygiene Association and is hopeful and encouraged about the impact she may have within her state.