'We don't want to die.' RDHs open up to us in latest survey results

By Kevin Henry, DrBicuspid.com editor in chief

August 17, 2020 -- Here at DrBicuspid.com, we recently launched a survey project called "RDHs in the real world." For this project, we are asking dental hygienists for their thoughts and opinions on the current and future states of their profession.

Today, we are unveiling our first series of answers to a single question we put to hygienists. We asked them, "What are the biggest barriers to hygienists returning to the operatory?" We knew the answers would be varied, but we were surprised at the level of emotion behind those answers.

Their responses are provided below. As a note, we only asked hygienists to give us their first name, how many years they have been a hygienist, and the state in which they practice.

Q: What are the biggest barriers to hygienists returning to the operatory?

The aerosol debate

  • "I want to use my Cavitron! I can't exclusively hand scale. It's too painful." -- Amanda, RDH for 25 years, Virginia
  • "There is not enough time to treat patients without ultrasonic scalers and not being able to use them." -- Diann, RDH for 51 years, Missouri
  • "Aerosols. No additional appointment time to reassure patients or follow increased infection control measures. No breaks for self-care." -- Anonymous RDH from Oregon

Safety and personal protective equipment (PPE)

  • "The appropriate and adequate amount of PPE. Communication with doctor and office manager." -- Joyce, RDH for 40 years, Pennsylvania
  • "PPE supplies. A hygienist can't do her job without everything she needs to keep herself, her patients, coworkers, and dentist safe." -- Michelle, RDH for 16 years, North Carolina
  • "Also, the risks we are taking at the moment are really underestimated. We don't know the long-term health consequences, for instance, of wearing an N95 for eight hours a day! The dentists don't wear them for that long every day!" -- Elizabeth, RDH for 30 years, California
  • "A noncompliant assistant or doctor. They say they listen or will change/do things differently but they don't." -- Anonymous RDH from New Jersey
  • "Doctors not investing more in our safety and expecting the RDH to work at the same pace with what seems like double the work. Also, patients do lie about exposure to COVID-19 and we work at ground zero for an hour at a time. We don't want to die." -- Shannon, RDH for 10 years, California

Time and resources

  • "Having time to properly turn over each room so that it is safe for the clinician as well as the next patient." -- Donna, RDH for 43 years, Pennsylvania
  • "Nobody but hygienists truly understand what we do and how valuable and difficult our work is. Biggest barrier is lack of respect and appreciation due to this lack of never having been in our shoes. ... We are NOT getting more time. Difficult to stay on time and provide optimal care. Our schedules are packed." -- Bobbie, RDH for 15 years, Washington state

We will have more answers from another question next week. If there is something you would like to see us cover in a future article, drop me a line at kevin.henry@drbicuspid.com.

Note: If you're a hygienist and would like to have your voice heard in a future article, please fill out our survey.

The comments and observations expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the opinions of DrBicuspid.com, nor should they be construed as an endorsement or admonishment of any particular idea, vendor, or organization.


Copyright © 2020 DrBicuspid.com
 

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