August 2020

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Working Abroad as a Dental Hygienist

I was excited to start my career and simultaneously pursue my passion for travel. I decided to work as a temp for Dental Connections full time for the flexibility to travel every few months. I would work all around the Seattle area, gaining knew knowledge and experience working in different demographic areas. Every few months I would take off and go backpacking for as long as my budget would allow before coming back and repeating the process. A little over a year later, I decided I wanted to move to central Europe to hopefully work and travel on a more balanced schedule. My search for Dental Hygiene abroad was a challenge. The first time I expressed interest in working internationally as a Hygienist was in school and lead to a couple of dead ends. Online, my research came up with outdated information or volunteer opportunities only. Using networking skills I finally met a Hygienist who worked in Switzerland in the 80’s. She said she no longer had a contact for me abroad but suggested asking on a Dental Hygiene Facebook page. That very same day I posted on Facebook and thankfully got a message from an RDH working in Germany. Three weeks later I was on a plane with two suitcases and my cat, Alfred. I had never visited Germany before and did not know a single person living there. My passion for travel and my support at home gave me the courage to take the leap blindly. I never spoke on the phone or had a video call with the office, all communication was via email. It was quite the risk. It was also the best decision I have ever made.

Once I arrived in Germany I had ninety days to obtain a work visa and residence permit. On top of the paperwork for the immigration office, I also had to find a place to live, a phone, a bank, a car, insurance, taxes etc. There is so much that goes into moving to another country besides obtaining residency there. In Germany and multiple other countries Dental Hygiene is not a recognized profession, meaning there are no accreditation standards or programs. This allows Hygienists licensed in the United States to obtain work in these countries as long as their license stays active in the U.S. In Germany specifically, there is a large U.S. military community who have family members needing care. This helps with the language barrier. I did not know any German upon arrival. Depending on where you are working and your patient demographic, you may need to take German classes to become fluent once you arrive.

Working in Germany and other countries who have not previously focused on preventative care can be extremely rewarding. Immersing yourself in a new culture will forever change you. I know hygienists who have moved to Germany with their children, spouses and animals. I met the love of my life in Germany and married him there. During my time abroad I travelled to 32 new countries and made a lifetime of memories. Living in Europe taught me to slow down and to focus on health.

Were you aware of the possibility to work as a Dental Hygienist abroad? If barriers such as seeking employment or finding relocation resources are provided for you, would that be the assistance you need to take the leap? If you have a passion for travel along with Hygiene and living abroad is something you’re interested in, please let Dental Connections know. Maybe we can help.

Casey Thornton RDH in Germany

Interviews in the Post-Pandemic World?

A strange day at Dental Connections in our Seattle office. Moving some desks and equipment home since the entire team now works remotely. We started this office from scratch in 2007 with no clients. Through hard work and determination, this little office grew and grew to be very successful. Many of you have visited us at this location on Lake Union. We were doing Zoom interviews already before the pandemic made them cool. They work well and are highly efficient, but nothing replaces a face to face meeting to build real relationships. If you are reading this post we have a question for you. When all this madness is behind us will you ever want to do meetings with colleagues again face to face? We certainly hope so. This office is not closing for good it is just temporarily shuddered. Hopefully personal touch and in person relationships are still valued in the post pandemic world.

Empty reception area in our Seattle office.

2020 RDH Salary Survey

Dental Connections and the Washington Dental Hygienists’ Association (WDHA) have partnered since 2008 to produce accurate, comprehensive, and current statistics about dental hygienist wages and benefits in dental offices. The answers to this survey are completely anonymous and reflect a large sample set of workers providing the most up to date and accurate statistics available anywhere. Dental Connections and the WDHA have zero influence over the respondent’s answers and do not use this information for profit.

Before reading the results, we want to point out some key observations and historical trends:

• This survey combines ALL types of hygienists: traditional, restorative, part time, full time, experienced, new grads, etc. Restorative RDHs make more than traditional RDHs. Full time workers receive better benefits than part time workers. Take this into account while analyzing the statistics.

• By most measures the greater Seattle area is in its 5th year of an extreme shortage of RDHs. The Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated this problem due to large cohorts of workers not returning to their jobs yet and current workers seeking hazard pay compensation. This has driven wages up even more dramatically due to basic supply and demand principles.

• Historically, experienced professionals that have spent more time in a single practice are compensated higher for loyalty. This trend is changing because of the shortage. North King County currently has a $54/hour average, but recent job offers in 2019-2020 have been above that average due to the market factors discussed above.

• 18% of respondents are part time workers and this has a dramatic effect on the benefit statistics. The benefit percentages are lower as a result of the part time workers reporting lesser benefits.

Before determining whether an hourly rate is fair, consider all important factors: location, hygiene role performed, experience level, type of practice, and benefits (which can add approximately $5-$15/hour to the compensation package). Dental offices weigh these factors before making a job offer or negotiating a raise for existing staff.

When we counsel dental professionals about a compensation package the most overlooked portion is benefits. There is a tendency to only focus on the hourly wage and there is a lack of education about how much the employer is spending on benefits. Colleagues discuss how much they are making per hour because it seems the most relevant. It may not be as exciting to say “I get 3 weeks of paid vacation and a 3% contribution to a 401k”. Our advice to both employees and employers is to make sure they have a full understanding of the total compensation package and shift the focus away from the hourly rate by itself. Lastly, being treated fairly and being happy at a job is always worth more than a couple dollars an hour.

Download PDF version of the results below. Please contact ryan@dentalconnections.com if you have any questions or comments.

https://www.dentalconnections.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/08/2020-RDH-Salary-Survey.pdf

Dental Connections is a dental employment agency offering temporary and permanent placement services for dentists, hygienists, dental assistants, and business staff. We are more than just a temp agency because all of the dental professionals we represent are screened with a personal interview. Half our business is dedicated to permanent placement. Our service area is all of Western Washington, with most jobs in the following cities: Everett, Lynnwood, Seattle, Bothell, Kirkland, Redmond, Bellevue, Mercer Island, Renton, Kent, Federal Way, Auburn, Puyallup, Tacoma, Gig Harbor, Bremerton, Olympia, and Centralia.