For the last few years the word burnout has been on the lips and in the minds of many professionals across all industries. Burnout is defined as a syndrome that is the result of chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed. Burnout can lead to a variety of mental and physical illnesses, as well as effect a clinicians ability to provide compassionate patient care. It is no secret that there is a record shortage of dental hygienists working clinically at this time. This shortage in dentistry has occurred due to a variety of reasons, with burnout being a usual common denominator.
Hygienists working clinically currently state that their burnout comes from lack of job satisfaction often due to feeling unappreciated, working unreasonable schedules, physical pain, inadequate equipment, or a poor work culture. Often my colleagues relay to me how powerless they feel. Many feel as though they have lost their passion for their career as well as a sense of who they are. How can we get back to feeling passionate and whole again and avoid seemingly unrepairable mental and physical ailments?
“To change the way you feel, change the way you think.” Changing our mindset is easier to say and harder to accomplish. Just like flossing it’s something we all know should be done daily, however in practice it can feel like a chore until we get into the daily habit of working to improve our thoughts. I know many of you reading this instantly wanted to throw your device upon finishing those last few sentences. You are sick of what you are dealing with at your job and I’m telling you that changing the situation is up to you. I know, I’m used to being on the receiving end of the side eye from some colleagues as I give my courses on burnout and hostile work environments. The truth is I don’t have any magic beans for you. I do believe from my own experience with burnout that like Glinda the Good Witch in The Wizard of Oz said, “You’ve always had the power, my dear you just had to learn it for yourself.” We have the power within us to make powerful changes in our lives. I discuss this in depth in my book The Ultimate Guide For Dental Hygienist Burnout.
It is important to communicate with your employer your concerns and feelings. Do you need: new instruments, a more ergonomic chair, a more reasonable schedule, a raise? Is there an employee that is bullying you or making your job difficult? Uncomfortable conversations are…well uncomfortable. Speaking up by talking to the decisions makers at your office about your concerns is a necessary step towards your healing. Until you do so you will continue to have internal conflict. After communicating your concerns, you can then go from there based upon the response you receive. If the response is unsatisfactory then you can decide your next course of action. That might involve you looking for more suitable employment that aligns with your needs and principles or you choosing some other path to take.
I strongly encourage hygienists to find supportive peer groups so as to feel less alone and isolated in their profession. By networking and finding like minded individuals you can find ways to positively cope with what you are presently experiencing. A supportive network will know what opportunities interests you and would be a great fit for you. Talking with a professional such as a therapist or psychiatrist has proven helpful for many. This has empowered many to learn new ways to deal with various situations in their lives that previously seemed daunting.
Often individuals who are experiencing burnout because they are bored (called bore-out) are not being challenged mentally. Taking continuing education courses or courses that aren’t CE related, that interest you could be the spark you need to revive your waning passion for your career. Going to dental hygiene conventions is a great way to hear industry leading speakers and to take hands-on workshops.
Daily self care is needed so as to daily reset our mindset and mood and flush out negative thoughts. Self care doesn’t always have to be a spa day or a vacation. Self care can come in the form of daily exercise, reading or listening to a book, talking to a friend, journaling, or doing anything that brings you joy. Recovering from burnout and bore out is a journey that is possible. Recovery requires us to take brave steps just as when we were first learning to walk. At times we might feel off balance and stumble through the process but eventually we find our firm footing leading to new adventures that await us.
Newkirk, S. (2021, June 24). Bullying and burnout in dental hygiene. Dental Products Report. Retrieved January 2022, from https://www.dentalproductsreport.com/view/bullying-and-burnout-in-dental-hygiene
RC;, G. (2005, May). Work stress and burnout among dental hygienists. International journal of dental hygiene. Retrieved February 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16451388/
Jones, D. (2021, February 19). Avoiding burnout among dental hygienists: How to achieve the main goal for 2021. Oral Health Group. Retrieved February 2022, from https://www.oralhealthgroup.com/features/avoiding-burnout-among-dental-hygienists-how-to-achieve-the-main-goal-for-2021/