Erika Reyes, Concorde Career College in Memphis TN! Graduated in April 2021 and still waiting to take my National Boards! In the meantime, I am working as a “Hygienist Assistant” until I get my license 😊 I am going to Penn College for my bachelor’s in dental hygiene starting this fall and hope to bring forth the patient/dental field connection at a stronger rate!
I always knew at a young age that my interests involved helping others. I had joined the military for five years and after serving, I was left with a tough decision; what profession did I want to do? That is when I took a personality test that connected your strengths to several professions that would best suit you. Dental hygiene was on the top of that list. So, I took a leap and dove headfirst into the dental field. 🦷
🧠 The first step I took towards dental hygiene was a dental assisting program that started while I was waiting for the dental hygiene program to begin. It was suggested for me to do so that I could get a glimpse of the dentistry life. It was also super helpful because I did not know much about dentistry and it opened my eyes to another side that I would not have seen as a dental hygienist. It helped with giving me a broader understanding of the amazing field!
Of course, life loves to throw curve balls and I found out I was pregnant a month into the dental assisting program. With two kiddos of my own (four and two at the time) I felt almost defeated. But I did not want to give up just yet. I knew that if I just pushed myself a bit more and stayed with a strict schedule, I could keep it up! 🙌 One week before my externship was up for DA, I gave birth to an amazing baby girl! A couple days later, I went back to work for externship and crushed out the last 40 hours!
A couple months went by and the start of my dental hygiene program came! I was so excited. I ran to the store and bought so many binders, papers, folders, and pens. I gathered everything up and had it laid out, ready to go. My pencil bag was FULL. ✏️✏️
Let me tell you, having three kiddos, working full time, and going to school for DH was pretty tough, but it was quick and easy to get into the swing of things. Honestly, it takes a lot of strict scheduling. My day would consist of the following:
⏰ I would wake up at around 5:00 A.M. My backpack, breast pump, scrubs, shoes, and wallet would all be set beside the door for quick retrieval. 🥛 I would grab some breakfast, which was usually something quick like hard-boiled eggs or cheese and cashews. I would fill up my coffee canister, grab my water bottle, and dip. ☕️
I was lucky to have a stay-at-home hubby to take care of our three amazing kids.
He would always walk me to my car, kiss me goodbye, and then I would be on my way. 💋 It was over an hour drive for me to get to school, so I had to leave early to get there on time. In between classes, or during a break period, I would breast pump 🍼 in a small office that looked like it was also used as a storage unit for goodies and caps and gowns. It was great because I had my own little area! 🤗
I only worked full time during my prerequisite hours because I was able to get off at 1PM on most days. 🧐 Some days I did not have class because I had already taken them prior to registering for Dental Hygiene. I love working, so I did not mind being able to have an extra income to support my amazing family while studying to become something I would fall in love with. 😍
When I studied or did assignments during the weekend, I would sit with my kiddos and let them “help me out,” do their own schoolwork, or even arts and craft so I still interacted with them. 👶 👧
Bedtime was semi-strict while I was in school. Whether it was during my prerequisites or not, the bedtime was usually around 7:30 PM – 8:30 PM. Once my kiddos were snuggled into bed and snoozing, I would bring out my laptop, books, and paper and just go straight into it! 👩💻 For a while, I would spread everything across the dining room table because it was big enough to hold all of my paper and books. After a while, I invested in a small portable desk, a laptop stand, and a mouse. It helped a lot to use an actual mouse! 💪
I would stay awake for a while (caffeine was my friend) and just study. It took a while to find what worked best for me. ☕️
💁♀️ Everyone is different when it comes to studying.
Studying is definitely the key here. But if I am going, to be honest, it is also about prioritizing and scheduling! So, let me start with scheduling…
1. Scheduling 📅
The best method in my mind is to actually put something down that you will be able to see easily, whether it be on your calendar on your phone or a monthly calendar on the wall. I went with a monthly desk calendar so that I could see what was going on as I was sitting on my computer. It is easier to place things down on a calendar to understand what needs to be done by when.
Due dates, quiz dates, exams, anything! 🔎
Mark the whole thing up. You can also go the extra mile and color coordinate the classes with a highlighter or different color pens. Whatever works for you, but honestly, this is by far the best way to keep track of all those assignments!
2. Prioritizing 📌
Prioritizing is the tricky thing. Some people like to just go straight down and study it all and others like to study one subject, quiz on it, then study another subject. It is all about pacing yourself to how you like it. Take all these tips that you get from peers, teachers, etc, and pick and choose what fits best for you. I liked to complete all my assignments for the week to knock them out of the way, and then jump into studying. It allows peace of mind that the assignments are done, and you don’t feel as panicked! That PowerPoint project that you need to complete in the upcoming weeks for Nutrition? Knock it out! You can always add more into it later but at least you will have a template to go off when the due date starts to creep up 😊
Prioritizing and scheduling may be the easiest part of the studying process. 🎉
Now, what really works to really keep that information in your mind? 🧐 Like I have been saying this whole time, it is different for every single person! One person may like to use notecards (whether it be on an online platform or in-hand paper notecards.) Another person may like study guides. Someone else may like to put their study material in question format to really get their mind going. Whatever helps, helps! 🤓
Try it all and see what fits best.
Do not feel discouraged if you try one studying method and find it to not work best for you. ☝️
Personally, I found it best to incorporate all of it. 👀 The beginning of the dental hygiene program can be tougher than the rest due to not having any base information to go off of. This is why studying may seem more difficult. Really try to connect the information best you can. Just reading, “S.L.O.B. means Same Lingual Opposite Buccal” doesn’t necessarily mean you truly understand what it means. 😅
How does this connect to the information you already know? If you cannot connect it, how can you find a way to connect it so that it makes more sense?
😎 This is the most difficult portion of studying, but when the information is a lot of information, do not feel discouraged! Do not focus on the information that does not seem imperative to the course. This is hard to say, as everything is great to know. But when it comes down to it, if an instructor is telling you to focus on certain areas, focus on those areas! 🙂
3. Connecting the information… ✍️
This is the best method to learn once you begin to see connections throughout the course. Dental Anatomy may seem like a lot, but once you get into the other courses, you begin to notice connections to dental anatomy. 🦷 I always like to bring out the books and find them in several books so that I am able to fully connect the knowledge and get it in different words. It also helps when you need to do a project on the information. 🧐
Find information on a specific topic in all those books! Not only is it exciting, but the connection makes you feel more confident in yourself.
D.H. Peers!!!! 👩 🧑
Okay, this is where you start to use those social skills!
Being on good terms with fellow dental hygiene peers may provide you with lifelong friendships, endearing motivational talks, and assistance! Even if you are the one giving assistance, it can be super helpful! Positivity is crucial, as it helps your mind deal with the stress of the program better! 🙏
It is easy to feel uneasy and negative about situations (such as COVID-19 extending your program!) but try to look on the brighter side of it all! Even if you do not feel confident in the words you tell yourself, repetition of that positivity will eventually be genuine! 🤩
So, get excited! Get amped! 🤩
You are killin’ it and you should seriously be proud of yourself! 😊
Written by: Erika Reyes, from Concorde Career College in Memphis TN
Thank you so much Erika for sharing your motivational story and helpful tips. 🤩 It’s really amazing to see you enjoy your time during your dental hygiene school journey while you continue working for your dream and passion! 💪
Hey future RDH, I bet after reading this blog, you are feeling more motivated and super ready to follow your dreams, no matter what comes in your way! 🙌
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(Disclaimer: StudentRDH is NOT affiliated with the NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, CDCA, WREB.)