Why CE Goes Beyond Professional Obligation

by Beth Parkes, RDH, BSc

As dental hygienists across Canada, we are united and bonded by one major, collective fear: The Continuing Competence, Quality Assurance auditing process. The mere mention of the term elicits a sequence of events including, but not limited to, sweating, blurred vision, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and a sense of overall dread. For many of us, this fear brings us to a full-on stop. We get in our own way and cannot make a move forward as we stand immobilized by the daunting task ahead. What if this could be different? Is it possible to replace fear with determination, and perhaps even a sense of pride? As registered dental hygienists in our beautiful country, we are highly educated, extremely skilled health care professionals that hold ourselves to a standard of practice, leaving many other professions in admiration. Whether you are responsible for collecting continuing education points, writing a comprehensive exam, or creating a professional portfolio, you have put in an extraordinary amount of work to become who you are today. Our schooling was simply the beginning of our learning and growing as professionals.

I for one have made the decision to change my perspective on the Provincial auditing processes. Ladies and gentlemen, we have got this one. Our professional portfolio is our masterpiece and the chance to parade our dedication to this profession. You are a health care provider who is so engaged in your profession that you spend a Saturday afternoon learning about the latest advancements in infection control to protect the public. You are so driven to provide the most optimal debridement that you spend your Thursday evening at a study club to learn about new instrument technologies and techniques. You even bring your dental representatives in over your lunch hour to research new oral hygiene products available to improve the oral health practices of your faithful clients. Use your portfolio to track and organize this learning. Show off the work you put in and look back at it often to see how far you have come. You have gained so much more in the weeks, months, and years since the person sitting hopeful and enthusiastic in your dental hygiene graduate photo. Don’t let fear distract you from the astounding dental professional you have become and are continuing to develop into. Continuing education is the fuel we need to stay engaged and excited about our profession.

Let’s take a practical look at our requirements and create a strategy to optimize this undertaking.

Complete an Annual Self-Assessment:
Regardless of what Province you reside in, either use the tools provided to you by your regulatory college or simply create your own. Think about your daily practice. Are there topics that make your stomach uneasy, or questions you hope your clients won’t bring up? Use these areas of uncertainty and turn self-doubt into a learning goal. Ask questions, read articles, and look for courses specific to this topic. You just might ignite a passion for an otherwise daunting subject.

Create a Learning Plan:
Having direction with your continuing education will optimize both your learning outcomes and your enjoyment. By being specific with the subjects you chose to learn about, you are working smarter and not harder by eliminating the need to gather up random CE hours in an attempt to make the puzzle pieces fit into some semblance of organization. Respect your time and energy by being selective with what you choose to participate in.

Keep an Open mind:
Sometimes our plans change. You may start on one path, only to be presented with a new, exciting opportunity for growth. Although direction is important, and will keep us on track, don’t be afraid to veer off or venture into something unknown. We should always be in a state of assessment, implementation and self-evaluation. If your learning path is leaving you unfulfilled, perhaps it’s time to change course. The key is staying organized and not allowing yourself to fall behind for fear of failure or merely avoidance.

Finally, rather than fearing the audit, take the opportunity to ignite your passion by writing about everything you have learned. You just might be surprised by how much pride the end product provokes. We have a responsibility to pursue continuing education. This much is true; however, the decision is up to you to perceive privilege where others see obligation. Create a plan, ask for help, find resources and regularly check in with yourself to evaluate your process. The future of our profession is in those who strive for more and put in the hours to achieve excellence.

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire”~ William Butler Yeats

About the Author

Beth Parkes, RDH, BSc is an engaging presenter who has been a Registered Dental Hygienist for 15 years. She has worked in General practice, Independent Dental Hygiene Practice, Orthodontics and Periodontics. She is proudly the Educational Director of rdhu in Burlington, Ontario, and a Quality Assurance coach at rdhu. Her vision is to help create leaders in the Dental Hygiene Profession, empowering them with knowledge and skill sets that will set them apart.