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Career Profile: Dental Hygienist - Sherri Gollins
Sherri Gollins, Dental Hygienist, Research Dental Hygienist, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD
I chose this career because…
I choose to become a dental hygienist because it offered independence and a chance to help other people. At first, I wanted to be a teacher. However, at the time when I needed to make a career decision, I realized that the teaching jobs were limited and very competitive.
<span style = “font-weight:bold;”>College Education
• Associate of Science, Dental Hygiene, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas
• Bachelor of Science, Dental Hygiene, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico
h4. My typical workday involves…
My typical workday involves wearing many different hats, which keeps life interesting. I don’t always do the same tasks every day. Our clinic cares for patients mainly between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. When I am not caring for patients, I take care of the administrative work. At this point, I have many more administrative than clinical care duties.
When I worked as a dental hygienist in a private practice setting, we typically delivered the following during an examination:
• Thorough review of health history
• Blood pressure is taken. Screening for hypertension is a wonderful service to offer your patients
• Intraoral and extraoral radiographs for detection of pathology such as cysts, abscesses, tumors and decay, as well as, abnormal findings such as extra teeth, delayed eruption patterns and craniofacial abnormalities
• Oral cancer exam of intraoral and extraoral soft tissues and the head and neck
• Periodontal evaluation to monitor bleeding, presence of infection, bone health, gum recession or swelling, plaque and calculus retention
• Treatment – scaling, root planning, coronal polishing for example, to remove plaque, calculus and stain. Hygienists in some states can be licensed to administer local anesthesia to aid in comfort during some of these procedures.
• Placement of protective occlusal sealants as indicated
• Oral hygiene education, as well as, nutritional education
• The doctor will diagnose any pathology and recommend further treatment.
What I like best/least about my work…
What I like best about my work is that it’s new and different every day. The mission of NIH changes and so will the goals of the work. It is a place to grow in and experience new ideas. The staff changes a lot, as interns and fellows leave their mark and move on. It is not a place where a person can easily get stuck. The force of the institute pushes you on.
My job is rewarding and satisfying. When I am part of something that confirms or denies what we need to know to deliver better healthcare to the world, I feel proud and honored that I have been a contributor. It’s an incredible feeling.
What I like least about my work is seeing children who are sick and will not get well. It’s hard to see a beautiful child be frail and in pain. Their lives and their family’s lives are forever changed. The parents and families are great champions and defenders of their kids. Many families whose child does not survive, go on to do great things in memory of their child, and I am always inspired.
On the clinical side, the treatment I provide for people is never going to be finished. Many times the best I can do is an introduction to oral care and beginning clinical care. Often I don’t have the opportunity to see them become orally healthy, or to finish what I begin. That’s not why they come to see me. We are helping them get ready for medical care that may put them at risk for infection, but will hopefully save their lives.
On the research side, sometimes the path you are on turns out to be the wrong one. To right yourself, you may have to start over. The work is tedious and you have to be meticulous or the study may not have valid and reliable findings.
My career goals are…
My career goals include working towards a Masters degree. I just can’t decide what direction I’d like to go. I hope that it will keep me here at NIH and help my career to be more interesting, challenging and new. I never thought I would return to school for my career. I always thought I’d go back just to keep learning and stretching, but I am motivated to continue my studies with a goal in mind.
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The convoluted way in which having good oral hygiene and how much it can impact one’s body has never lost my interest. When researching, I have read it is most common to get oral cancer And/or Periodontal Disease when not taking care of one’s self. Those are just two important things to remember when taking care of you orally. I want to have a career where I can teach people to take care of themselves and to prevent from these happening. Often times, people lean more to a career that fits only one of the traits, me on the other hand, I want a career that will not only suit me for most but have an adventure. Of course when picking a career, you focus on the pay, but the big thing is to know that you will love your job. There are so many people in this world those great jobs such as Doctors, Lawyers, and Veterinarian’s and on. You hear from most that they absolutely hate their jobs. Who wants to wake up and dread to go to work? I want to wake up and be giddy to arrive at work. It is wonderful to think you will learn about people in all ages, ethnicity, teach them about Oral Hygiene, or refresh there memories on how important it is to keep up with it. Every time I go into get a cleaning the whole Dental practice never seizes to amaze me. Everyone is so happy and helpful. You can tell they love what they do. Although, most people wonder why one person would want to spend the rest of their life working in people’s mouths, I think of it so much more than that. It is such a neat feeling knowing you can wake up excited to do what you have dreamed about your whole life.
Since being a first generation college student in my family, I had no one teach me about the simplicity of education. The one thing I know is that since high school, it is something about the medical field that interested me. I took Career Explorations and it really helped what field I wanted to go for when studying in the medical field, particularly Dental Hygiene. What really caught my eye was that you get to help people and teach them. This is one of my best interests. One of the struggles for me was not enrolling into college straight out of high school. Over the years I have looked at it as having time in researching in which career best fits me. First, you begin to look online, on how to become a Dental Hygienist, take a look on what are the first things you must do. In Arizona, there are many Community Colleges and a University that offer prerequisites and the Dental Hygiene program such as Rio Salado, Phoenix College, Carrington College and Northern Arizona University. The lowest degree you can get in this degree is an Associate’s Degree and the highest in a Bachelors degree. Hygienists typically need an Associate’s Degree in Dental Hygiene. Bachelor’s degrees in dental hygiene are also available, but are less common. A Bachelor’s or Master’s degree is usually required for research, teaching, or clinical practice in public or school health programs. High school students interested in becoming dental hygienists should take courses in biology, chemistry, and mathematics. Some Dental Hygiene programs also require applicants to have completed at least 1 year of college. Specific entrance requirements vary by school. Most schools offer laboratory, clinical, and classroom instruction. Hygienists study anatomy, physiology, nutrition, radiography, and Period ontology, which is the study of gum disease. (BLS 2014)
To become a Dental Hygienist, it takes a lot of skills to be one. The important skills to have in this job is being Detail oriented, speaking, active listening, critical thinking, judgment and decisions making, compassion, patience, multitasking skills, coordination and physical stamina.
In modern world, there are so many people that couldn’t stand not going to the dentist ever again. They depend on them to keep up with the oral hygiene, clean their teeth and get X-rays. From Dental Assistants to Dental Hygienists and Dentists, they are always willing to help you. People in the dentist office always advise to you how important it is to keep up with regular cleanings at least twice a year, and brush and floss your teeth daily. If you do not take care of your teeth, it could lead to bad things like oral cancer and Periodontal Disease. The Dental Hygienists are the ones to help you prevent these things from happening. If you ask any person in this field if they enjoy their job, I know most would say yes. There is nothing more than a better feeling wake up every day knowing you are going to help someone. Although this career takes a lot of skills and education, it is worth it in the end. Most hygienists are aware that there are ‘better’ jobs out there that make a good amount of money, (a lot more than theirs) they would not trade it for anything else. Of course this is why it is such a growing field. This really shows that they truly love what they do. If there are any traits or skills listed above that fits you then this may be your career of choice. Over the years since researching this field, I have learned so much from it. There is good pay, they are flexible with you if you have a family and want to work part time. I think this job is perfect for anyone honestly. This is such a dynamic job to have. There are some things you must research before going into this job. How long does it take for? you to become a Dental Hygienist, what is the pay and availability in your area, and what is the total cost of the program. Although these may be stressful things to think about, but is very important to look into these things before going into this career. (ONETOONLINE, 2014)
The level degree to pursue my career of choice is Associates Degree. I plan to continue to attend Glendale Community College to achieve my prerequisites and once I’m done with those, I will be attending Phoenix College for the Hygiene program. I have heard that this is one of the best schools to attend if you are looking to get a basic and quick degree in your interest. The advantages of the program is interacting with people, learning in depth about oral hygiene, and learning how to operate the X-Ray machines. The disadvantages is not knowing if it will be a promising career, hearing from stories. Although, living in Arizona, it is a great career to get into. The average earning/wages $81,470 per year ($39.17 hourly). Where I see myself in 10 years is being very happy and content with life. I can see myself a wonderful job, being married and having a family. I see that I won’t be struggling with money and not living paycheck to paycheck. It’s never a good feeling not knowing how come up with the money for an owed bill. I also see myself living in California. It is pricey living there, but there is so much to do there. The Dentistry field is high in demand there, so that one positive thing to think about living there. (SALARIES-BY-THE-CITY.ORG, 2014)
There are many things to think about before making this step, but it is also an exciting time in your life. You are doing this to better yourself. You are picking a career that best fits you and what YOU want to do. Not what someone else wants you to do? This is the reason why I am choosing this. I have spent many years researching and now I am more than ready to begin. It is an awesome feeling that I will be helping and teaching others. Every day I go to college, I think to myself that I am a step closer in doing what I love best. And I am so excited to be going to school and pursuing my degree in Dental Hygiene.
Dental Hygiene Program, (2014)
http://www.phoenixcollege.edu/academics/programs/dental-hygiene/award/dental-hygiene-aas Summary Report for Dental Hygienists, (2014)
Dental Hygienists Salary and Wages, (2014)
http://salaries-by-city.findthedata.org/l/7003/Dental-Hygienists Dental Hygienist Careers and Education Tracks