Okay. Hey, Letitia, how are you?
I am doing well. How are you?
I am doing wonderful. Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with us here at RDH Connect about your career. We’re so excited to get into it.
Absolutely. Thank you for inviting me to do this. I’m very excited to expand through and be more active.
Awesome. So I mean, you’ve already been incredibly active. I know whenever we have our conversations on our page, we like to post discussion topics. We usually have really good conversations off of those, and you always share such valuable input. It seems like you really value community because you’ve even started your own, you even host your own. I know it’s the Sundays scale, but how would you describe it to others?
Yes, so I would describe it as a group of hygienists that just meet currently on an Instagram live session that I hold to just kind of provide support for each other and community. Community to me just means a group of people that chat with one another provide tips, tricks like information that they found helpful for themselves to help them with different things they’re experiencing in their career and to also just uplift each other, encourage each other, support each other, and help each other feel a little bit less alone and less isolated when it comes to experiencing burnout or different mental health struggles that we can experience being healthcare providers.
You’ve been pretty vocal about that. I read that you, well, I did your feature on the RDH Connect page. So you’ve graduated during the pandemic, right? During 2020,
Yes. Right. In 2020.
You’re a self-described pandemic hygienist.
Yes, I’m the product of the pandemic. That’s the way that I like to look at it.
So that’s interesting because it just seems, I don’t know, it seems to me that people who graduated or there’s just something different. I feel like there is so much more of an impetus on mental health or the providers that graduated during that time, they focus more on mental health. I think they have a stronger understanding of the correlation between the mental and the physical, but also how community plays into that too. You said on your lives for the Sunday Scalies that you talk about, people can feel isolated, especially in hygiene. So were you surprised to find that sometimes hygiene can be a little isolating as a profession?
Yes, I was very surprised. I knew that overall, typically you work alongside another hygienist and you kind of have someone where you have your friends that you’ve graduated with and you have someone there in your corner, but everyone kind of goes on a different path and you experience things differently. Everyone just experiences life differently in general. So I feel like you experience hygiene differently, and I think with the pandemic, with things being shut down and then opened back up, and there being so much of this unknown and uncertainty for a lot of time and this huge influx of, or not influx, but a lot of hygienists were forced to retire or just had decided, you know what? This isn’t for me anymore. I’m ready to maybe pursue something different. And so there was that high demand and there were a lot of new grads itching to get into the field and not really understanding what the impact of that would be.
This year, first time, I experienced being a provider and doing it during the pandemic when there were so many unknowns. People had so many anxieties with the unknown. So your mental health was suffering, your patient’s mental health might’ve been suffering. And it was just like this very uneasy time. And I think that we started realizing, Hey, we need to focus on our mental health so we can be better for these people and be the proper provider for them. And then that just led to this huge demand of people connecting more and sympathizing with each other a little bit more and saying like, Hey, actually I am feeling that way too. Let’s talk about it. And I think that that door was opened a little bit more so it could feel a little less isolating and less alone.
It’s interesting because I graduated about 10 years ago and I don’t remember there being a big conversation around mentorship and community, and I feel like my community were, my hygiene runs, my classmates. But it’s exactly like you said, everybody graduated. They went their own way. I also feel like typically this isn’t always the case, but I see it all the time. Very often hygiene students are typically that age range where sooner rather than later, they’re getting married, they’re having kids. I see that. I teach here at a college, I teach in a hygiene program. And after Christmas break, it’s always like, who got engaged? Because there’s always at least one student that comes back and got engaged and then a couple months later it’s a pregnancy announcement. So my point to that is it can be so hard to sustain those relationships and those friendships.
And if you’re a hygienist who wants to go on and do more, whether it be speaking or writing or research, that’s not always a typical path for hygienists. You have some that would say, why would you ever want to go back to school? Why would you ever want to write? Why would you want to write for free? Especially when you can make a pretty good amount of money on the day-to-day as a hygienist. So have you ever felt alone or felt some isolation being a hygienist who is pursuing all those other pursuits like writing and researching and all the other things?
Yes, because I feel like a lot of times that’s an avenue of our field that can get overlooked. And like you said, people are like, why would you want to go back to school? Why would you want to pursue that? Or You already have this degree, you can make a decent living. Why wouldn’t you just stick with that? So I feel like it’s something that’s not really looked at a lot. It’s not something that a lot of people are choosing to pursue for themselves. They’re maybe trying to stay more clinical. And so as you’re, I’m currently trying to navigate my full-time clinical position while also writing, jumping into social media, and trying to be a mentor for people. It can feel very alone in a sense as my community that I have around me currently is a lot of people that are just doing clinical. So they’re not understanding what I’m trying to dive into or pursue. And while they are there for me and they support me and they encourage me doing what I’m doing, it doesn’t always feel like there’s someone in your corner that ‘s going exactly through what you’re going through.
And it is incredible when you do find those people that are going through what you’re going through. I think that’s, especially in hygiene, what makes it so, first of all, it’s rare to meet another hygienist unless you’re going to a CE or something specific for hygiene. I don’t feel like it is the most common career. So when you meet another hygienist right away, there are just so many things that you can relate to with each other. But it’s an entirely different thing when you meet other hygienists who are doing, they’re writing and they’re working before clinical and after clinical because there are so many things that they want to do. So I know for me, when I first started going down the writing path, I was really, really blown away when I realized, oh, there are so many others that want the same thing. They have that feeling of wanting more. So I think it is. So I think, gosh, what would’ve been like for me to see a page like yours, like the Sunday Scalies, and not just speaking about wanting to do more with your profession, but also just that community of other people that are in it with you. And they’re saying, I know it’s a lot, but keep going. Keep going. So do you feel like the network that you’ve cultivated is a pretty supportive group?
Absolutely. I’ve definitely connected with quite a few people that I chat with regularly through social media, and we provide support for each other in multiple ways. I’m definitely getting the feedback and seeing the benefits of being open and talking about it, because just as we’re sitting here talking about how it can feel isolating sometimes at the same time, there is so many people going through it and it just takes sometimes one person to open up that door and get that out there for others to be willing to open up that door as well, and then feel comfortable enough to connect with each other each. So on one hand, it’s an area that feels isolating. On another hand it’s an area that feels so rewarding because there are so many people that are experiencing similar things are feeling burnt out, stressed, whatever it may be, and that want that support and that encouragement.
Well, so what’s next for you professionally? Do you have any big goals you want to accomplish either in this later half of 2023 or sometime in 2024?
I definitely am looking at turning Sunday Scalies into a podcast. So kind of transitioning away from that live session a little bit and getting that out there a little bit more frequently than just once a month. So that will be my next goal for the end of the year. Professionally, I would like to apply for my PHDHP. I think it’s something that I would just like to have and kind of feel accomplished to have that under my belt. I think those are my two main ones. Continuing to write and then attending conferences and getting out there and just meeting other hygienists because I know they’re out there and it’s been nice to meet online and talk like we are now, but to meet in person and to network even more. I’m really looking forward to that.
That’s awesome. As far as, if you want to have a podcast, is it something that you think you’ll want to interview people? Because it seems like with this community aspect of hygiene, it’s so interesting when you hear other people’s stories and it’s like you’ve been going through the same thing I’ve been going through. I had no idea. The way that you have your Instagram live sessions now, it’s pretty open, right? Anybody can join the conversation. That’s awesome.
And I think I would definitely, I want to keep the podcast the same way. It’s having different people on and talking with them and just sharing their stories, they’re experiences, having them ask me any questions so that I can help and guide and mentor in any way that I can. And continuing that aspect of a little mini therapy session.
I love that. I know you’ve written for RDH Connect, which is incredible. Do you see more writing in your future? And if so, what topics are of particular interest to you?
Absolutely. Definitely continuing the writing. I’ll continue a little bit more talking about burnout, and I just feel this huge drive to just write and talk about my experiences that I’ve been going through. I am working in the field, kind of being in what I feel is a unique situation, working with the provider. So I just feel called to write about that openly and get that out there to provide support for others that might be in those situations as well.
That’s incredible. So where can people find you? Where can people support your work?
People can follow me on Instagram right now at Tooth Fairy tis, and that has a link. So as my articles come out on the different websites on RDH Connect, I do have a profile there as well. But as my articles come out with RDH Magazine or DentistryIQ, everything will be linked on that social media.
That’s awesome. Any last words of advice or encouragement or anything you’d want to share with any other hygienists?
My advice to hygienists would be to not settle to know your strengths and know what you offer, and strive to find a place that aligns with that and supports that and encourages that, and always work towards your strengths and kind of focusing on you and building you up.
That’s awesome. And those are some really powerful words of encouragement. So thank you for sharing. Thank you for sharing everything that you have with the RDH Connect community. We’re so grateful for you and all that you’re pouring into our profession, and it’s a privilege to call you a colleague. So thank you for everything, Letitia.
Thank you. Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with me.
Of course. Have a good one, and we’ll see you soon.
Learn more about Letitia & check out her RDH Connect articles: ‘Why professional boundaries are important for hygienists to succeed’ and ‘Recovering from failing the dental hygiene clinical board exam’.