In recognition of National Dental Hygiene Month I would like to shine the spotlight on one of our valued customers, Judy. Judy is a Registered Dental Hygienist Alternative Practice; she provides services to patients in long-term care facilities. I interviewed Judy about her career and found out that it’s a tough, but rewarding job. Here’s what she had to say:
What factors influenced your decision to become a Registered Dental Hygienist Alternative Practice?
I have been a dental hygienist for over 26 years and the last 2 years practicing as an RDHAP. This has allowed me freedom to practice preventive hygiene care to patients who have little or no access to dental care, to serve the underserved.
What type of schooling is required to become a Registered Dental Hygienist?
A dental hygiene education is a minimum of 2 years, but it can be a long as 4 years. A 2 year program offers a diploma, certificate, or associate degree. A four year program offers a baccalaureate degree. There are some schools that offer Master's degrees for those interested in education, research, or administration. An accredited dental hygiene program requires an average of 1,948 clock hours of curriculum. This includes 585 clock hours of supervised clinical dental hygiene instruction. For a list of all dental hygiene programs in the country you can utilize the American Dental Hygienists' Association website.
As an RDHAP working with patients in long term care, what does your job consist of?
Every day is varied. I try to stay flexible with the resident patients, the nursing staff, and all the adjunct support staff. I usually have a list of residents to see, but sometimes it is not a good time to visit...sometimes they are in the beauty shop having their hair done, or they are in the shower room, or physical therapy, or in activities. Heaven forbid we disrupt a hot game of Bingo! Each patient that is seen, their facility chart is checked for their current medical and drug status. I then will see the resident in their room, in their bed, wheelchair, or reclining chair. Complete an intra and extra oral assessment. Chart missing, decayed, broken teeth. Complete a periodontal assessment; perform preventive hygiene services as necessary such as scaling, root planing, and applying fluoride. I try to adapt toothbrushes, and other intra-oral aids for ease of use of the resident or for the staff or family members that may be assisting the resident in their oral care. Then the charts are completed and equipment is packed and moved to the next room. At the end of the day a Resident Oral Health Needs Assessment form is filled out for the residents that are seen on that day. This form addresses the acute needs, suspicious oral lesions, denture concerns that will need the attention of the facility's dentist.
Some days I do an inservice for the nursing staff or an informational evening with resident's family members. I am a speaker that promotes and provides education on prevention of oral health diseases and total health to the public, special needs and senior caregivers, other professionals, and government agencies.
What are the things you love about your job and what makes your job difficult?
I love the people! Everyone has a story to tell. Most all my patients are thankful for the services I provide, and it is rewarding to see the improvement in my patient's oral health and the improved self esteem they have.
What makes my job difficult is the long hours. Takes about an hour to pack my supplies for the day and load my car. It is a set-up time of approximately 15 minutes before seeing a resident, and a tear-down time of about 20 minutes before I can move on to another resident's room. Upon the return to my home-office it is time to unpack, clean, sterilize instruments and equipment and pack up my mobile cart again. Then there is the paperwork and billing insurance and Denti-Cal. Each resident seen takes about one hour of clinical time and the same in preparation and completion of paperwork and equipment maintenance.
Is there a dress code at your place of employment? If so, what is it? If not what do you wear on an average day? Do you have a favorite medical uniform?
No dress code, when seeing residents I wear single color scrubs, with a white lab coat with my name embroidered on it. I love Landau Scrubs especially the pull-on pants. I think I have all the colors! When meeting with the public or giving an inservice I usually wear nice street clothes with my lab coat.
Will you be doing anything specific to participate in National Dental Hygiene Month 2008?
Yes, on October 30th my local dental hygiene society along with dental hygiene students will be having a "Sugarless Shack" at a market night. We will have stuffed "goody bags" with sugarless treats, toothpaste and toothbrushes and floss. The dental hygiene students will be demonstrating tooth brushing techniques, and some tooth fairies in costumes appear! It's a fun time for adults and children alike!