Ever get years (10 in my case) into your current career and realize that deep seeded feeling you have had for years is now unavoidably true. That you chose the wrong career….
Well that was me last summer.
As a picked out a piece of plaque covered tartar that had flung into my hair from cleaning someones teeth I thought to myself, “Is this it?”. No, not like “Aha! Is this the piece of plaque I slingshotted into my hair?”. What I mean is contemplating if this is what my life is to be like for the next 40 years? I just felt sick at the thought. Gut wrenchingly sick. Fundamentally sick.
Don’t get me wrong. Being a dental hygienist is a noble profession and it has served me well over the last 10 years. There are aspects of the profession that I love: the people I get to see (most of them anyways), the people I work with and the feeling of accomplishment when you have made a difference in someones life helping them improve their oral health.
Yes there is a but. For me it was a big but. An unavoidable but. There is no room for growth.
This for me has become a deal breaker.
Now before I get all the RDH’s out there in a twist let me clarify what I mean by this. Yes there is continuing competency learning, yes I could go back to school and get my bachelors and become a dental hygiene instructor. Go back to school and become a dentist. There are things I could do, should I want to “grow” as a dental hygienist. But to me all those routes would bring me right back to where I am now just another 10 years down the road. Doing the same thing every day, all day, and with a ceiling.
The part that drives me crazy about my job is the lack of creativity, there is nothing new to the day other than the patients. You do the same thing essentially every hour on the hour.
A glimpse: Medical history update, Dental concerns, X-rays if due, Scaling+Rootplaining, polish, fluoride and a Recall exam, write patient notes. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. Oh, add a peri-apical X-ray if needed.
If I work super hard at my job there is no promotion. There is no upward mobility. There is nothing to strive for over and above giving excellent care to your patients. For some people this is not a problem and they are happy with this scenario. Comfortable even. And I applaud them because we need great people doing this work. But I need more.
Oh and did I mention the pain yet? Have you ever noticed the contortionistic position your dental hygienist is in to try clean your teeth in that small mouth of yours? Well just think of the physical pain that causes long term. Repetitive stress and one sided twisting motion (all mouths seem to be on the left when I sit down… weird!). I don’t even know (or want to know) how much money I have spent on physiotherapy, massage therapy and chiropractor to try keep this body cleaning teeth. There is only so much you can do to make cleaning teeth ergonomic. My body is starting to say no.
I have tried doing something else part time to see if that did the trick. I did courses and became a personal trainer. Then went into group fitness. Thought about opening up my own bootcamp. Though the fitness side of these things appealed to me I realized I didn’t have enough of an interest to pursue this further. Worth a shot.
My husband and I joined a network marketing company with the Worldwide Group and Amway. This was actually a great experience and the mentorship we received from our coaches David and Caroline was invaluable. If it was not for this experience I don’t know if I would have had the courage or even the thought to make this move in careers. Among many other things I learned to create a strong work ethic, play injured mentality and mental toughness. Through this time I also come to realize the awesome potential of the internet. While building our business I did realize how I would like to do something else other than dental hygiene but it was still comfortable enough to continue.
My husband had recently moved from one local tech company for another in the sales department. So I had exposure to the tech industry through my husband. I was always intrigued about the dev guys at his work. They seemed to love what they do and make good money doing it.
Now all I had to do was to talk to my husband about my plans to change careers. You know, just toss away that $40,000 (or was it $60,000… who knows its all going down the drain anyways!) Associates Degree in Dental Hygiene and go back to school to get into software development. Easy conversation right?
That leads us into the epic camping trip of chaos. The big conversation.