Dimensions’ Brand Ambassador Susan Buchenberger, MEd, BSDH, RDH, an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Comprehensive Oral Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Adams School of Dentistry, shares how she thrives in her career.
I’ve been practicing dental hygiene for more than 33 years and I still love it. What is my secret? What have I done? Reflecting back on my career, four key factors come to mind.
NEVER STOP LEARNING
Continuing education (CE) is so important. It is required for license renewal, but it is so much more. CE builds and retains your professionalism. Continuous learning prevents you from getting bored with the routines of “scale, polish, rinse, and spit.” Whether it is refreshing your memory of oral pathology from hygiene school, or learning about a new product, continuous learning prevents you from getting into a rut. Gaining knowledge to share with patients instills confidence that you are providing the best possible care.
NEVER STOP SERVING
Throughout my career, I have always served the community. I either taught oral hygiene in schools or volunteered at local free clinics. As a hygienist, you not only have a skill, but you have the ability to serve. People need the care you can provide. I recently learned from a wellness website that helping others by doing a good deed actually reduces stress and prevents depression.1 Psychologists call it the “kindness cure” as serving positively affects mental health. Naturally, there are seasons of my life when my children were small that I could not volunteer as often. But as a whole, giving back to the community has always been a big part of my life.
Whether it was walking around the block, going to the gym, doing wall push-ups in the lab at work, or training for a 5K /10K race, I have always tried to get my body moving. This not only reduces stress but also helps prevent injury from odd hygiene positions. I have been fortunate to have several groups of friends who like to workout, keeping me accountable. I could not meet my friends during the COVID-19 lockdown so I completed a 30-day yoga challenge on YouTube. The daily challenge kept me engaged. Practicing dental hygiene puts our bodies in strange positions and, at times, I would need a deep tissue massage. My husband and I both agreed that the money spent on a massage was an investment in my career. I needed it to keep going. You have to find what works for you, but I believe exercising consistently or getting necessary massages has kept me basically pain-free, enabling me to work in this profession.
For years, I worked part time while raising my children. That was part of the reason I chose dental hygiene as a career. I was able to volunteer at my children’s school and still have a career. It honestly was perfect. I could do it all and felt very fulfilled. My youngest was 10 years old when I started working full time again. Even then, I got off at 3:30 pm allowing me to never miss a school soccer game.
I believe establishing a positive work-life balance is also key to a long, happy career in dental hygiene. Many of my friends who worked full time always commented that I seemed so happy in my career. And I was. Practicing self-care, continuously learning, giving back, and striking a balance between work and personal life HAVE contributed to my success in dental hygiene.
- PIH Health. The Kindness and Mental Health Connection. Available at: pihhealth.org/wellness/blog/the-kindness-and-mental-health-connection/. Accessed February 18, 2021.