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The dental hygiene program has been a difficult but rewarding experience. I have always

thought that I wanted to be a dental hygienist, but the road to becoming one was much more

difficult than I expected. There is a great amount of skill that goes into dental hygiene, but also

empathy and compassion for the patients you are working with. Many people come to the dentist

with anxiety due to past experiences, thoughts of pain, or discomfort with another person

working in an intimate area. I have always considered myself one that can easily empathize with

others, and there have been many times in dealing with patients where this has been tested. One

patient in particular had very high dental anxiety due to an experience he had with a rubber dam.

I enjoyed working with him because while it was not an easy appointment, I had the opportunity

to make him as comfortable as he could be despite his nerves. By talking through everything I

was doing in the appointment, using a gentle touch, and talking to him about other things besides

the mouth, he was able to get through the appointment without any extra ‘calm down’ breaks that

he normally needed. I enjoy the opportunity to make a patient feel comfortable and safe in the

dental chair. I love that I have found a career where empathy and compassion are of value.

My experience in dental hygiene school has required plenty of adapting and

perseverance. Clinic presented me with stress that I was not accustomed to having in regards to

school. I used to dread coming to the clinic. I would be filled with nervous butterflies from the

night before all the way until about an hour after I got home, especially during the first semester

of working on patients. I was such a perfectionist, constantly putting too much pressure on

myself to get every detail correct. Over the course of working with more patients and failing a

couple proficiencies, I began to see those moments that I considered failure, as areas that I have a
chance to grow and improve. The instructors were very helpful with changing my mindset in this

area. They were always encouraging our class to keep our heads high and come in with a

learning mindset. With their continual guidance, I have been less inclined to put the pressure of

perfection upon myself, and to focus on providing the best care I can for my patient. As time

passed, I started becoming more confident in my patient interactions, and more comfortable with

my skill. Before I knew it, I found myself getting excited in anticipation of going to clinic.

Whether I would be working with a new patient, or seeing a recall patient, I looked forward to

my time with each of them. This program has pushed me in ways that I didn't think I was ready

for, but over time it has proven to be just what was needed to get me to where I am today.

Environmental factors have not made my years in the dental hygiene program smooth by

any means, but have made me more open to change and being flexible with the current situation I

am in. In our first year, we had a terrible winter and many of our classes were cancelled for

weeks in a row. As far as clinic, many patients were not able to make their appointments leaving

us with limited numbers of patients to work with. It was difficult for my class to get the patient

numbers that we needed for the semester. Additionally, it was tough to get all of the proficiencies

completed in time. But, through many adaptations, we were able to make it through, and make

up our patient counts in the next semester. Then, in my second year, just after spring break, the

COVID 19 virus caused elective dental procedures to be stopped until the government gave us

the ability to return. This changed the timing of taking both written boards and clinical boards.

My written board exam was cancelled two days before I was scheduled to take it. While this was

a tough time filled with uncertainty, it challenged me to have a positive mindset about it. There

was nothing that any amount of complaining or negativity would do to fix the situation. I focused
on being as positive as possible and just kept looking ahead to the future. The future in which I

will be a licensed and registered dental hygienist, using what I have learned over the past two

years to compassionately treat patients.