Those of you that are my friends on FaceBook have been privy to all of the traveling I have done these last few weeks. Traveling is nothing new, as it is a routine part of being a dental educator. The travel this month has been special, instead of giving programs, I have been attending them. I am passionate about dental education, and that passion comes from my own life experience and understanding that for me to love the practice of dentistry I have to stay continually active in my own growth and learning.
I have had two lives in dentistry. The first ten years out of school I was busy trying to figure out this thing we call dental practice. All alone in my practice, doing just enough continuing education to satisfy the state board, I struggled. That struggle ultimately resulted in my leaving dentistry for a period of time. My frustration and lack of fulfillment pushed me to a point where I felt the only option was to no longer practice. Fortunately for me, life often has plans for me that I don’t understand, and I found myself back in practice as a means of supporting my family. When I returned I had the dumb luck of joining a practice, where the senior dentist had a strong philosophy of practice that included being intentional around continuing education. It didn’t take very long for me to see that this was a different way of practicing, and realize I was loving it.
What I learned about myself is that I need to participate outside my office in a learning environment to keep my energy up in the office. The time and money I invest around my own education, reaps benefits that are difficult to account for, as I am so much more productive in the office as a result. There are many pieces of this time I spend on myself that are important. One, of course, is the learning. I love deepening my understanding both clinically and behaviorally, and having new procedures, or ways to do them back in my office. Recently I attended a Standard Proficiency Course and became certified to use my Deka CO2 Laser. Both the laser physics and the clinical ability to perform soft tissue procedures in my office is new learning, and I am having a blast implementing it. I also know that the time to meet and talk with other dentists is a key ingredient. Our shared experiences create incredible opportunities for learning, and I am grounded as I listen to the stories and realize that my day-to-day experiences are happening in every dental office.
To this end I just returned from Oregon, where I spent a week with one of my study clubs. This group has gotten together once a year for the last five years. Those few days are cherished time. The gift of a small group study club is as our relationships have deepened over time so have the conversations we can have. These friendships also support us all year long between meetings as we connect via phone and mail. I am actually a member of two study clubs, because each one has a different energy and focus. They come in many varieties, some spend all of their time together examining a very focused clinical topic, while others are broad and come together without an agenda.
My passion as an educator is a commitment to providing these types of opportunities for other dental professionals, because education changed my professional and personal life. So my question to you is, what do you do to stay engaged? My encouragement is that you figure out what engages you, and then schedule it with intention.