There is a prevailing sentiment among most students that they “can’t wait to be finished with school.” Presumably this means that learning, at least in a classroom environment, is finished, and they will spend the rest of their days learning on the job, or not learning at all.
In dental assisting as with many other professions, this is certainly not the case, and many young professionals are mortified to learn they have to take an array of continuing education courses and additional training courses every so often.
This is an interesting phenomenon to say the least. Many of us chose our profession because we are passionate about it. We enjoy our work, we enjoy the fields we are in, and we enjoy learning more about our profession.
In dentistry this should certainly be the case as well, as dental assistants, while they may not be into teeth as hardcore as, say, the dentist or hygienist is, should at least get some enjoyment out of learning new aspects of the job, internalizing a new process or technique, or at least getting a refresher on aspects of the industry they may not have addressed for awhile.
So the question: why aren’t we embracing continuing education opportunities more freely?
Okay, there are a few reasons. One, continuing education can carry significant costs with it. It can set you back several hundreds of dollars or more, and most of us, particularly on a dental assistant’s salary, can’t exactly afford that. But there is a solution.
Look to your employer.
While you’re interviewing for dental assisting jobs, speak with the hiring manager about CE and whether they send their dental assistants to conferences, seminars, and other training opportunities, and whether they consider certifications, licenses, and memberships in professional organizations, and similar credentials to be an important part of the job.
If they do, ask if they pay for that right. If so, consider it a bonus. If they do not, at least find out whether they expect you to still have those credentials.
You’ll find that many dentist’s offices consider legitimacy to be important, and for that reason will pay for their assistants to receive that additional dental training and CE. This is an important benefit that gives you an advantage over others. Having certifications, licenses, and organization affiliations makes you an established professional, and you will have a leg up on the top jobs in your area.
There are many different professional credentials you can seek. The DALE Foundation offers a variety of professional continuing educational opportunities, including in dental assisting. Becoming an expanded function dental assistant through their CE programs can boost your career significantly and open you up to new opportunities you may not have even known were possible.
So stop looking at classroom work as a waste of time, or an unpleasant activity that only gets in the way of you doing your “real” work. Continuing education is an important part of professional development, and as a dental assistant you will find access to a whole new world of opportunities and knowledge in your field.