Tips for Temps by Carly Clark, RDH, BS

Dentaltown Magazine

A seasoned RDH shares the five main things hygienists should do when branching out into the world of temping

by Carly Clark, RDH, BS

If you temp, it’s usually nice when you have a group of offices that you know well and call on you regularly. But how do you acquire such a list? As someone who has worked as a full-time temp for a number of years I have found that following these five guidelines is crucial to succeed as a temp and will help you build a list of dentists who will ask for your services time and time again.

Let’s start with the very first call/text/email request for a booking between you and a new office. Answering calls or returning messages is an excellent way to build rapport with offices. Check your messages at lunch and after work. When you get the message or date, check your schedule and respond. Calling every request back within a reasonable amount of time, whether available for the job or not, shows care and respect. Try to call back within 24 hours, unless you have a good reason for waiting longer. But be aware that offices often call other people right after calling you. As a result, returning the call/text/email as quickly as possible is best. I found that texts or emails were easiest to respond to because I was usually working each day, which made it difficult to make calls between patients or lunch breaks.

If you’re not available for the days in question, try asking if they would like the information passed on to anyone else who may be available. (This is where knowing other temps is helpful.) Thank them for calling and ask that they please try you again.

If you are available for the needed days, get all the information: dates, time, hours, arrival time to set up and morning huddle. Tell them you will confirm before the scheduled temping appointment. Politely establish your hourly rate and minimum hours, so there is no discrepancy or discussion upon arrival.

Confirm, confirm, confirm! When you’ve been booked in advance, make sure to contact the practice the day (if not two!) days before the scheduled day to confirm the date, time, hours and location. Don’t assume anything, in case one of you wrote or said something wrong. (Tip: If an office booked you to work on Monday, confirm the Thursday before in case the practice isn’t open on Friday.) Don’t be surprised if you confirm with someone in the office and you get a call from another team member asking you to confirm. You’ll be amazed how much the front and back half of offices don’t communicate. With that being said, double confirmation is better than no confirmation.

Arrival and presentation
Be on time or early. What’s the saying? “On time is 5 minutes early.” Traffic can be an issue, so go early if needed, and drink coffee and check emails after you’ve parked in the parking lot.

Be presentable and professional. This means be clean, pull your hair back, straighten your clean scrubs that are your size, and be simple in your scrub attire if the office didn’t specify a color for you. Offices can be turned off by temps who arrive wearing very childish scrubs in nonpediatric offices, or who are wearing extremely wrinkled scrubs with the waistband rolled or inappropriate shoes.

Next, smile and say hello to the staff. Don’t go into how bad your morning was or any personal stories. Keep in mind this is like being on a first date: Would you immediately start telling your date about your ex or your bad children? This is not the time for that. Another quick way to turn off a team member or office is by telling them how sleepless your night was or how you were rushed and didn’t get your breakfast.

Hopefully your next step is someone showing you around the office. Be a good listener—don’t talk over people or act like you know everything, because you may miss something. Take a few quick notes if needed on computer steps as well. Every computer can be slightly different. Make sure they have covered patient check-in, medical forms, X-rays, perio/intraoral charting, charts and notes, calling the doctor (what he/she wants), patient bags, checkout/walkout, doctor exams and sterilization flow.

Finally, check the room for everything you need that day. Some hygienists don’t stock anything before having a temp, but other offices may have an RDH out for a while because of maternity leave, a death in the family, surgery, etc., and you’ll find the room hasn’t been stocked at all.

Patient care
Smile, and be kind and welcoming. Remember, these people don’t know you. This also is like a first date, so be positive—if patients think you’re in a bad mood, you can easily make them apprehensive. Also, keep in mind sometimes you’re covering for a hygienist who has been there for a very long time, and people don’t like change. Many offices are learning to let patients know, but there will be plenty of situations where they don’t. Early in my career, I had a patient put it best, “No offense, but it’s like having your hair done by someone other than your regular beautician.”

What should you say if the office doesn’t tell you how to disclose who you are? You can mention why you are there for the hygienist if the office allows. A good example is, “I think she’s on vacation— well-deserved, I’m sure! But I’ll take great care of you, Mrs. Patient.” I specifically tell patients that filling in for offices is my full-time job, so that offices don’t have to reschedule everyone in the case of an absence, which often puts patients at ease.

Keep the conversation moving! Ask if they have any concerns they want to discuss with you or the doctor. Follow up on a note from the last appointment, such as sensitivity or a new crown that was placed. Making patients comfortable is important when we are hygienists, but even more important as temps.

What do you do with downtime? Hopefully someone walked you through their sterilization flow. Turn over your room or check if any other rooms can be cleaned up or broken down. Do your notes or check upcoming charts. See if the room needs any stocking, make patient bags and help do what you can in sterilization. Ask if anyone needs anything, or if you can help—simply asking goes a long way! Listen and pay attention to anything you can offer to help.

End of the day
• Make sure all of your room is cleaned and put away.
• Write down your hours, rate and name on paper for a doctor or office manager, and discreetly hand this information over with your business card.
• Finish any patient notes and check any sterilization that you see you can help with while waiting on a check.
• Ask if they want computers off or trash out to finish breaking down the room for the day.
• Thank the office! Tell them it was nice to meet them, and you would love to come back another time when needed. Leave your business card with the front desk, the person who wrote your check or even on the desk of the person you filled in for. It’s great to make sure the office knows how to get in touch with you for a later date.
•Always have your schedule with you in case they’d like to book you another day while you are there.

Following through on these professional temping tips will allow you to build an excellent office base that calls you regularly. It will make your life easier and simple—plus, it’s fun getting calls and visiting new offices. Temping at a variety of offices also helps keep your computer skills sharp and affords you the ability to adapt to different situations. It’s amazing what you learn by seeing a variety of offices!

Author Bio
Author Carly Clark, RDH, BS, has been a registered dental hygienist for 14 years, working as a temp off and on in both pediatric and general dentistry in North Carolina and Colorado. While working as a full-time temp hygienist, Clark founded her limited-liability corporation and worked as an independent contractor educator and ambassador for several dental companies. Last year she published the e-book Temp Me Out and started a blog to give tips to other temps and advice for all dental hygienists:


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