Is it the Job or the Career?

As dentistry and I started to spend all of our time together, I was forced to face our compatibility issues.  As the relationship grew, more red flags appeared.  The days of leaving work at work were growing more sparse.  The daily stresses were following me home and keeping me up at night.  I was suddenly investing as much time in worrying about my work as I invested in studying when I was in school.  Payday became the best day of the month, as it was my way of consoling myself over the realization that maybe I wasn’t in love.  It became the main reward for dealing with daily pressures and maddening experiences.

After a few years I convinced myself I hated it.  But what exactly was it I hated?  There were a lot of problems with the job itself.  We had a very high employee turnover rate for a few years.  Learning the ropes AND having to train new assistants became burdensome.  Relying on undependable employees who often called in “sick” was a constant letdown.  Having to work with a different temp at least 1 day per week was exhausting.  Life didn’t feel smooth, and I didn’t feel set up to give the kind of care I wanted to provide for my patients.

I wasn’t feeling good about what I was doing.

The office was very fast-paced.  In any given day, I was seeing an average of 30 patients.  If there are 8 hours in a work day… well, you do the math.  I did learn some really sharp time-management skills that I was able to use in other areas of my life.  For example, every morning (still) as I get ready for work, I brush my teeth with 1 hand while I blow dry my hair with the other.  I must save myself a whole 2 minutes every day– it’s incredible!  Anyway, the constant rushing prevented me from getting to know patients and building relationships with them.  I was missing out on the most fun part of being a dentist.

I still wasn’t feeling good about what I was doing.

Being a young lady who likes to get to know people, I discovered that I had to walk a fine line in my friendships with my assistants.  Every female dentist has to learn this one day in her career.  I’ll just say it: if you become too close, they don’t respect you as their “boss.”  It really makes a difference.  Plus, day after day it gets hard to hear about how Abby’s sister hates Abby’s new boyfriend because he got too drunk and got into a fight with Abby’s sister’s boyfriend just before he disappeared for 3 days with Abby’s car.  Oh, and that’s why she couldn’t come in to work the last 3 days.  Too much drama.  It disturbs the calm I try to maintain in my life.  And it’s painful to watch people I care about make life decisions that keep them trapped; cycling in that drama, without a possibility of ever finding peace.  I learned that if I maintained boundaries and kept a professional yet friendly relationship with my team, there was no drama.  Amazing!  (Note to dental assistants: I know you all aren’t like this, but you’ve got to admit, there are a lot who are!  You know who you are… I think?)

So you’re probably thinking that these things seem like your average workplace annoyances.  They are!  Right?  I bet most people deal with these types of things in any job, regardless of what you do.  So the question really is questions really are:

Is it worth it?  Is there enough good to outweigh the bad?

Is it possible to do this career without all of these hassles?

Do I hate my job, or do I hate my career?

I believed I couldn’t know the answer to these questions until I experienced it for myself.  I mean, how could I possibly give up on my partner after just 4 years?  We made a commitment.  Even as the foundation of our relationship was cracking, I couldn’t give up.  Besides, I had no earthly idea what I would do next, so the safest choice was to assume it was the job, and start to look for my dental dream job.

So for a little while longer, I tricked myself into thinking it was the job and not the career.  I was determined to make this relationship work, unknowingly conceding myself to 6 more years of this incarceration.

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25 thoughts on “Is it the Job or the Career?

  1. Wow!

    30 patients a day is a bit overwhelming; no wonder you wanted to get out of that relationship! Did you ever consider switching practices, working part time or opening up your own practice on your own terms?


  2. Hi,
    Being rushed like that everyday is not a good thing at all, you tend to miss what you are rushing past, what is around to enjoy, doesn’t sound like a good point in time for you at all.

    1. I am a RDH. Have been in the dental field for over 30 yrs!
      I work part time as I feel with other obstacles in my life, I need a balance. That is one reason. I also have no benefits of any sort with my curent employee of almost 5 years, need medication for a health issue..which does not affect my work, need time for Dr’s appts, I am single after a marriage demise and am trying to keep afloat and as healthy as I can. The office I work in is high production, lots of drama and 3 family members involved with the practice. This is what contributes the most STRESS!!!!!!!! I have been seeking new employment for over 3 years already but I have my preferences of a certain caliber of a dentist/dentists I wish to work for, proximity to work etc. Therefore have not found the right office yet. I enjoy my work, love most of my patients and usually develop a good rapport with my patients fairly quickly yet I feel very rushed @ times to keep up with the production that the office manager (another family member) demands. Help? How can I make things better? Any recommended solutions?

      1. Debbie, congrats on being in a field that you love! I agree with you that life needs balance. I started working part-time for the last few years for the same reason, and it helped a lot. It sounds like the best thing for you is to find a new practice– you know that already. Honestly, I think often times when family members are involved in the business, you are, simply put, screwed. Especially if their role in it is as dysfunctional as you describe. People do weird things when their family is involved in business. It sounds to me like you are on the right track: you are taking care of yourself, you know what you want to do, you have personal standards to guide you, and you are trying to make it happen. Now, it just needs to happen for you. Do you get out into the local dental community? Do you know the specific dentists with whom you’d like to work? Do you have RDH friends that know anyone? Have you tried temping to get to know different practices? Rushing isn’t any good for the patients and for you. I do hope you get out of this dysfunctional situation. Let me know if I can help you with more brainstorming. You can also contact me if you want to keep some things private. Good luck! Don’t give up!

    2. Hi Mags. So true– I guess it’s that thing they call “being present.” It was not a good point in time for me, but it’s amazing how long it took me to realize how wrong it was for me. There were a lot of other distractions in my life, so I was able to ignore these feelings.

  3. Ironically, I am at the very same crossroads. It happens to people everyday, and not just in the dental profession. You have to be honest with yourself. No one but you can live your life, so you owe it to yourself to be happy. If you wait too long, it will eventually affect your attitude and how you interact with your staff and patients. Take time to think about what aspects of the career make you happy, if any, and go from there. Dr Horowitz gave some good suggestions on how you could change the landscape of your day-to-day. Good luck!

    1. Dr R, I think about it all the time. I think that I have been so lucky to be able to choose my path and only be “stuck” temporarily. I know many people don’t get to do that for whatever reasons. I agree with everything you’ve said. I’ll add that if you wait too long it will affect those things you’ve mentioned, and it will also affect every aspect of your life and who you are. I’m not sure if your really great advice is meant for me, but if it is, I have already done those things! Thanks for the thoughtful comment!

  4. Once again it is like you have broken into my brain and stole my thoughts! It is amazing but it does feel good to know you are not the only person that feels this way. So many people in dentistry REALLY REALLY love it that you feel like some sort of pariah if you don’t. I am finally taking steps to make career changes in my life and it feels really good. I don’t know that I can give you all the credit but you definitely jump started me in thinking “I don’t HAVE to do this”. Love your blog posts, you are a gifted writer and really give good voice to your emotions and experiences.

    1. Wow, Natalie. Thanks so much for your kind words! You totally made my day! I’m so impressed that you are working your way to doing what you want, or I could say to not doing want you don’t want! 😉 In my case, it started out being much more about getting out and NOT doing something. Now it has shifted (luckily) to doing something I want to do. I think I’ve mentioned this before to you, but it’s just as helpful for me to hear that more like us are out there as it is for you! Thanks, again. Keep me posted on your story and your change.

      1. Yes that is my goal as well. First focus on not doing what I don’t want, then I can figure out how to do what I DO want. That’s gonna take some searching. I never really thought about anything else since I decided so early on what I “wanted” to do. Yikes!

        1. That first part is easy, isn’t it? It’s finding what you want to do that can be the challenge. It took me a long time, but it worked out! At least you’ve got the ball rolling!

  5. you know how much I hate my current job. But now you also made me wonder if I hate the whole health career.

    I was planning on trying to pursue a differect career, but still within the “health care” umbrella, planning on masters degree in public health and so on…now what if it was the whole career is what I hate and not just the job in a retail pharmacy…

    well I guess time will unfold whom I really hate 😛

    and you’re right abobut how to build relationships with assistances, it’s a very fine line between being friendly with them and having some conversations from time to time, and being friends when “the boss” part is lost. It’s not that I love being a boss, but there must be some respect, atleast infront of patients…

    1. Hi Mina,
      It’s definitely worth trying to figure it out. I agree with you– sometimes time and experience is the only way to find these things out. I’d hate to jump ship for the wrong reasons. Then if you decide to move on, you don’t have to ever look back and wonder. I’ll be really fascinated to watch your journey and see how it all turns out for you!

  6. I’m currently and literally in the same position 😉 … I know that I love doing dentistry.. But I KNOW that it can ONLY get better than this horrific situation… Or else I’m in for a rude awakening… I love your blog and am highly entertained. Oh and I’ve DEFINITELY learned the whole professional line thing with assistants… Hard to go backwards but also has to start from the top which it doesn’t… As you know.. SIGH. I think you were very tainted from the beginning unfortunately, as am I..

    1. Thanks, Lindsay! We all have to learn the assistant thing the hard way. I had one assistant who it turned out not only stole $ from everybody’s purse in the office, but also would pit me and other assistants or even receptionists against each other. She was so crazy and manipulative. We all eventually discovered what she was doing, but the boss wouldn’t fire her. At the same time she was a great assistant and really bubbly person who was so well-liked. That was about as bad as it ever got, and I’m guessing a highly unusual situation.

      Yes, I have always looked back and wondered if my first job wasn’t the thing that tainted me. If I had started out with the last dentist I worked with, maybe I would have had such a different view on dentistry in general. Also I spent 4 years in that first practice which was waaaaay too long. That tainted and scarred me even more. Crazy. There’s that hindsight thing again.

      Thanks for following, Lindsay. I appreciate your comments. Keep me posted on what you decide to do.

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