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Career Profile: Dental Hygienist - Sherri Gollins

Career Profile: Dental Hygienist - Sherri Gollins

Sherri Gollins, Dental Hygienist, Research Dental Hygienist, National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, MD

National Institutes of Health: Office of Science Education

I chose this career because…

I choose to become a dental hygienist because it offered independence and a chance to help other people. At first, I wanted to be a teacher. However, at the time when I needed to make a career decision, I realized that the teaching jobs were limited and very competitive.

<span style = “font-weight:bold;”>College Education
• Associate of Science, Dental Hygiene, Midwestern State University, Wichita Falls, Texas
• Bachelor of Science, Dental Hygiene, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico

h4. My typical workday involves…

My typical workday involves wearing many different hats, which keeps life interesting. I don’t always do the same tasks every day. Our clinic cares for patients mainly between 9:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. When I am not caring for patients, I take care of the administrative work. At this point, I have many more administrative than clinical care duties.

When I worked as a dental hygienist in a private practice setting, we typically delivered the following during an examination:

• Thorough review of health history
• Blood pressure is taken. Screening for hypertension is a wonderful service to offer your patients
• Intraoral and extraoral radiographs for detection of pathology such as cysts, abscesses, tumors and decay, as well as, abnormal findings such as extra teeth, delayed eruption patterns and craniofacial abnormalities
• Oral cancer exam of intraoral and extraoral soft tissues and the head and neck
• Periodontal evaluation to monitor bleeding, presence of infection, bone health, gum recession or swelling, plaque and calculus retention
• Treatment – scaling, root planning, coronal polishing for example, to remove plaque, calculus and stain. Hygienists in some states can be licensed to administer local anesthesia to aid in comfort during some of these procedures.
• Placement of protective occlusal sealants as indicated
• Oral hygiene education, as well as, nutritional education
• The doctor will diagnose any pathology and recommend further treatment.

More on Dentisry

What I like best/least about my work…

What I like best about my work is that it’s new and different every day. The mission of NIH changes and so will the goals of the work. It is a place to grow in and experience new ideas. The staff changes a lot, as interns and fellows leave their mark and move on. It is not a place where a person can easily get stuck. The force of the institute pushes you on.

My job is rewarding and satisfying. When I am part of something that confirms or denies what we need to know to deliver better healthcare to the world, I feel proud and honored that I have been a contributor. It’s an incredible feeling.

What I like least about my work is seeing children who are sick and will not get well. It’s hard to see a beautiful child be frail and in pain. Their lives and their family’s lives are forever changed. The parents and families are great champions and defenders of their kids. Many families whose child does not survive, go on to do great things in memory of their child, and I am always inspired.

On the clinical side, the treatment I provide for people is never going to be finished. Many times the best I can do is an introduction to oral care and beginning clinical care. Often I don’t have the opportunity to see them become orally healthy, or to finish what I begin. That’s not why they come to see me. We are helping them get ready for medical care that may put them at risk for infection, but will hopefully save their lives.

On the research side, sometimes the path you are on turns out to be the wrong one. To right yourself, you may have to start over. The work is tedious and you have to be meticulous or the study may not have valid and reliable findings.

My career goals are…

My career goals include working towards a Masters degree. I just can’t decide what direction I’d like to go. I hope that it will keep me here at NIH and help my career to be more interesting, challenging and new. I never thought I would return to school for my career. I always thought I’d go back just to keep learning and stretching, but I am motivated to continue my studies with a goal in mind.

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