After much toil and labor I accomplished a goal of paying off all my debt and now it was time to revisit the goal of becoming a dental hygienist. Missouri College, where I received a certificate in Dental Assisting in 2006, finally opened a Dental Hygiene program! The process for consideration at Missouri College seemed rather intense and competitive; the only other program in St. Louis, Forest Park Community College, has a 2 year wait list for acceptance, but with the help of my parents, both Heavenly and Earthly I'll complete my degree in May of 2012!
Here was the process:
1st - sit for an aptitude test, if your scores meet the minimum requirement you are then asked to
2nd - complete a writing assignment explaining "Why am I interested in the dental field?" if you score high you are then asked to
3rd - schedule an interview to sit with the programs board for further consideration of the 30 seats available amongst hundreds of applicants.
Here is my writing assignment!
I distinctly recall the day I decided to look seriously into the dental field. I was sprawled out on the warm tiled floor in the home I was a nanny for in the afternoons. I’d held a variety and number of jobs in my short stint; helicopter and Internet companies, book store, data entry, administrative assisting, doctor’s office, construction, head hunting, and teaching life skills to those with disabilities. For as many different jobs I’d tried my hand at I couldn’t quite alight on a career. I began to realize that for just as much as I didn’t know what career to pursue the bigger issue was I didn’t know what was available in this wide world. I decided the best resource to find the answer to my lack of knowledge was… drum roll…the Want Ads. I began a very serious daily study of The St. Louis Post Dispatch. I read and I read. I read every jobs description and qualifications from Accounting to Zoo Keeping. After several weeks I began to notice a trend. Almost always I saw postings for dental assisting. Hmmm… could I work in the dental field? I began a veracious search for any and everything that would tell me about the dental field; assistants, hygienists, dentists, and all the specialties in and around these varied roles. As I considered my fit in this field I wondered about my aptitude, personality, and character.
I had always loved working with my hands; dexterity and agility had become skills I had developed over my life time, with playing the violin and piano and learning to create with needle and thread projects. I had even tried my hand at more than a few building and constructing projects between helping my dad with handiwork around the house and shop classes in high school. The dental field most certainly would require a great deal of working my hands.
I thought back to the jobs where I seemed to excel and enjoy my work and interactions the most. Where had I noticed making a difference in people’s lives? I worked for a number of years at a book store and as I began to consider the atmosphere and working conditions I wondered at the possibility that a book store and a dental office might have more in common when truly considered. I appreciated working with my co-workers on a daily basis and having others from the community added to the mix. Having a core staff of co-workers and building close relationships with them aided in our working together to help those who came through the door to find that perfect read. As I worked with the community I felt a growing sense of understanding and appreciation for their needs and wants. Sharing my knowledge in the books I had read, kept up on and began to know like the back of my hand and how they would help our customers. Communicating and work with a variety of personalities and needs in a fast paced and organized methodical mayhem was exhilarating. I just needed figure out where I would gain more knowledge and a skill set.
As I left my admissions and counseling appointment at Missouri College for the Dental Assisting Program, I couldn’t believe I had let myself be talked into a firm date for beginning school. I had walked in with the intention of continuing my research and gathering data and I walked out committed. I asked myself “am I really ready to step into this journey? Could I really be part of a team that I’d feared most of life?” I fretted a few days and then jumped in full speed. As I donned my red scrubs and learned about trigeminal nerves and gingivitis, crowns and bridges, and proper flossing techniques I looked forward to using and sharing my new found love. I was even elated in a timely new experience of having my first root canal!
I began working in the hygiene department of a dental office assisting six hygienists keep four operatories running smoothly. As I x-rayed and scheduled, polished and flossed, I realized quickly that my earlier considerations of my aptitude, personality, and character working in the dental field were like toothpaste, brush, and floss to proper hygiene. I had core co-workers and a community of patients with comfy teeth needs. My own experiences kept me understanding and empathetic to dental visit fears. My hands moved nimbly in helping create confident brighter smiles. Sharing my dental knowledge and encouraging proper hygiene needs and then seeing the fruits and excitement at re-call appointments were elating. In my education and experience I realized that not only was the dental field a good fit for me, but I am a good fit for the dental field.