Dimensions Brand Ambassador Melissa Calhoun, BAS-DH, RDH, shares about her experiences temping in various dental offices, and provides tips on how to be successful in temping.
When I began working as a dental hygienist 15 years ago, I pictured myself working in a single practice my entire career. Once I became a Navy spouse, I realized that staying in one office was not going to happen. Over the course of my 15 years, I have had the opportunity to work in pediatric dentistry, implant dentistry, periodontal dentistry, and general dentistry. Each office has prepared me for different aspects of the dental hygiene profession.
I love educating patients, friends, and family about oral health. In the summer of 2019, I chose to pursue my Master of Science in Dental Hygiene degree with a concentration in education. Two months into graduate school, my part-time dental hygiene position became a full-time position. With graduate school and raising a family, I decided I needed a more flexible work schedule and began temping in my local area.
SCOPE OUT THE OFFICE
There are many pros and cons to temping; it can provide flexibility, a decent income, and can help maintain your skills. On the other hand, sometimes you are given very little notice, are unfamiliar with the location, and the office may not be a great work environment. I found that going to each of the different dental offices in my area with my resume, cover letter, and business card in hand allowed me the opportunity to see the office, check out the waiting area, and meet the office manager or dentist.
I have entered offices that have asked my availability on the spot. This allowed me to ask about rates and how I desired to be paid. Determining rates is my least favorite part. I usually aim a little higher than the average fees in the area and go from there. However, how I am paid is not negotiable. Some dental offices will try to pay you as an independent contractor and provide you with a 1099 at the end of the year if you make a total of $600 annually. According to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), dental hygienists do not fall under the guidelines of an independent contractor. In most states, dental hygienists need to work under the supervision of a dentist, whether indirect or direct, which makes us employees. Another reason dental hygienists are considered employees is that the office provides the equipment used, as well as the how, when, and where to work.1 One way to help make this easy is I have copies of the IRS form W-4 filled out and signed to provide to the office manager. This small task makes life just a little easier for the office manager.
SET YOURSELF UP FOR SUCCESS
For offices I have not worked in before, I try to schedule a day that I can go in to become acclimated with the office. Learning where supplies are located, or new computer software can be daunting on the day you are working. Visiting the office a day or two before allows you to meet the staff and see your schedule for the day. Use this time to ask any questions you may have. One crucial issue to consider is what is supplied as far as personal protective equipment (PPE). Considering the recent pandemic, I believe it is essential that we take these things seriously. Occupational Safety and Health Association (OSHA) standards require the supply of lab jackets, masks, gloves, and goggles if needed.2 Currently, there are a few extra PPE recommendations. It is essential that when I am temping, I show up with the PPE that makes me feel safe. Every office is different, but I need to look out for myself.
It is helpful to find out how the dentist likes to be addressed when examining a patient and how he/she wishes to be informed that a patient is ready. Every dentist is different, and some are very particular. Learning how the office likes notes to be documented is another important question to ask. I always add in my own extra notes but learning the general template is nice. And if I have any downtime, which I usually do not, it is nice to ask other hygienists or dental assistants what you can do to help or keep busy.
FIRST DAY TEMPING
On the day I am to temp, I usually bring a bag with a few extra sets of instruments and a copy of my license to have accessible for anyone who asks. I like to arrive 30 minutes before my first patient to look through charts and determine the flow of my day. Then comes the first question of the day, “Where is my regular hygienist?” Be prepared ahead of time for this question. It is best to find out if the previous dental hygienist is sick or was terminated. Answering this question can be uncomfortable. It is best to know what you are going to say ahead of time.
After reviewing medical history and taking blood pressure, it is time to begin my initial oral exam. I try to explain everything and ask a lot of questions related to self-care routine. I am not their routine hygienist so it is helpful to find out what they are doing and ask how it is working. I try not to offer too much change to their self-care routine, but if the previous hygienist recommended something they are not doing and should, I reiterate the necessity and why. I find it beneficial to make the same suggestions rather than new recommendations and confuse patients. After the appointment is over, I like to thank patients for letting me take care of them and walk them out.
Being unfamiliar with an office can sometimes cause me to be behind schedule. I usually bring my lunch, since most offices have a refrigerator and microwave if needed.
I really enjoy the adventure of working in different offices. One downside is you do not have the opportunity to build relationships with patients or staff; however, you get to see how other offices work and learn what you like and do not like. If you enjoy trying new things temping might be right up your alley. Happy temping!
- Department of the Treasury Internal Revenue Service. Independent Contractor or Employee Available at: https://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1779.pdf
- United States Department of Labor. A Guide to Compliance with OSHA Standards. Available at: https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3187/osha3187.html