For the Winchester Dental team, continuing education includes not only learning through training, but learning through teaching. Soon after she earned her Bachelor of Science degree in Dental Hygiene, Laura Steinmetz, RDH began instructing dental hygiene students every week at a local community college. In this interview, she discusses how providing outstanding patient care and guiding students helps her to be exemplary in both areas.
Within the dental hygiene curriculum, are you doing both clinical and theoretical teaching?
I’m only teaching clinically. The students are required to have nine hours of practical clinic time in their first year. On my weekly day off, I do 3.5 hours of hands-on teaching with the students and their patients. I assess their clinical skills, demonstrate techniques when needed, and make sure the students are applying what they’re learning in their theory classes during clinic time.
Which level students are you working with?
I’m working with first-year dental hygiene students. This group will graduate in May 2018.
How does your experience at Winchester Dental inform your teaching?
My experiences at Winchester Dental help tremendously with my teaching. At Winchester Dental, we use so much modern technology and stay so well-informed and up to date on the latest Standards of Practice and research that I feel like I have current knowledge to impart to the students whenever they have a question about what it’s like in private practice. Also, the school’s clinic uses the same computer software that we use at Winchester Dental, so now I’m like a junior IT expert for the students and my fellow faculty who may not know that software very well. Sometimes I have experiences or situations with patients at work that I take back to clinic as a learning experience for the students. The two other faculty members that I work with during in clinic no longer work in private practice, so they’ll often look to me for advice on what is the most current protocol in “the real world.”
Do you find that teaching is informing your office practice?
Absolutely! Teaching reinforces the core values and ethics of the dental hygiene career that I learned while I was in dental hygiene school. It reminds me why I do what I do every day in private practice and allows me to stay current on the latest information that new graduates will have when they come into private practice.
Have you shared any of your best practices with your students?
Yes! I share lots of tips and tricks for hand instrumentation, but more importantly I try to get the students to focus on practicing ergonomically. Ergonomics is something I didn’t focus on enough during school, and I wish that I had.
Have you had any ‘aha’ moments with the students?
Yes, but it was more of an ‘aha’ moment for me! During clinic one day when several of the students were taking radiographs on their patients, they were all struggling with the same issues and weren’t taking diagnostic radiographs very well. The other instructors were giving tips and advice and helping the students, and I took those tips and tricks from the other faculty back to work the next day and found that I could take more accurate diagnostic radiographs!