Dental Hygiene Program – A Graduate’s Opinion

Students working in dental hygiene labAt Carrington College California we have a program where interested students can reach out to graduates about their experience and ask for their advice. Recently, we had prospective dental hygiene student, Ms. Cadieux, reach out to our former Dental Hygiene Class President of her junior and senior terms, Laura Russell. Below is their conversation.

Cadieux: Why did you enroll in Carrington College California versus a community college school?

Russell: I chose Carrington College California (CCC) as it does not require the gamble of a lottery system. I am a mom of two, wife and an all around very busy person, and I wanted to get going on my education immediately. I have had friends that spent years in community college lottery systems. Both my parents are RN’s, and my dad spent four years in the lottery until he was selected. My good friend, was alternate #42, meaning the entire class would have had to drop out twice for her to be a candidate for enrollment.

I also liked that CCC’s four terms are condensed. Condensed, not meaning “lacking info”, just that the classes are four days a week, straight through the day, and we don’t have long summer and winter breaks. The time saved by attending CCC was over a year that otherwise at a community college would have mainly been made up of summer and winter breaks.

Cadieux: Do you now feel ready to be employed, and do your job with confidence?

Russell: Yes I do. I was an RDA (Registered Dental Assistant) first, and wanted to work more independently, with more functions and more respect. The paycheck doesn’t hurt either. I feel confident in my skills as a clinician, public educator, patient advocate and as a hygienist with the most current and cutting edge periodontal education. I was trained on new, high-quality clinical equipment with instructors that ranged from decades of experience to those who are post-graduates within the last five years. So, we have been given education and experience, tricks of the trade and perspective, new and old. I feel well versed in the profession and prepared. Our school also offers many opportunities to meet with professionals (RDH & DDS) in the community through public health activities, externships with dentists and component and conference activity. It is a well-rounded experience that has me feeling prepared and confident.

Cadieux: Do you think CCC is pricey?

Russell: Yes, I do. I think anything more than about $50 is pricey. However, when I compare that to the long future I have in the field, it is truly a drop in the bucket. The CCC Dental Hygiene program has many benefits that I did not find at other schools. We have an entire 16-week class dedicated to the national board review. We carefully review each subject with the instructors who taught them in the last term. I found the information we reviewed to really be the meat and potatoes of what was on the national board exam. Our instructors traveled with us to state boards, helped meticulously and compassionately assist in finding board patients, and spent hours reviewing the board process to help us feel prepared. Board exams are a very stressful time, and having a school that sends us with all of our supplies, instruments and powered ultrasonic scalers is a huge help in the process.

The other schools I looked at are cheaper, their facilities are older, and you get less support with boards and not as many personal instruments. At CCC, you get your own typodonts, dozens of instruments, cassettes to store them in, and a clinic that is immaculately clean and stocked with all of the things you and your patients will need.

Cadieux: What made you pick CCC?

Russell: Proximity to home, no lottery, previous positive experience with the school (I went to dental assisting school there and did the majority of my prerequisites there), and the quality I saw in the clinic. Cost was truly an afterthought, and now that I am done, it was worth it and I’m glad I made the choice.

Cadieux: If I were to be struggling in a certain subject/topic is there a lot of help offered?

Russell: Yes, you have a faculty advisor to help you. You will get grade reports and many teachers offer reviews and study guides to assist with exams. They want us to succeed. Many instructors will spend time through email, after class or during their office hours to help if you have any questions. It is nice that everyone’s office is located in one spot on campus. I never felt lost or pushed off, I was offered more help than I truly needed. And also like I stated above, the help with board exams was above and beyond.

Cadieux: Did you feel confident going into take the state board’s test?

Russell: Yes. Obviously, I had nerves. As far as support from the staff, I had it times 10. The staff was in the UCSF lobby with snacks and water for our patients and us and had suitcases full of extra supplies if we needed them. It was a 5+-hour day for me, and the support was amazing. They spent probably 10 hours alone on just my board patient over the assessment process in the months prior to boards, checking, rechecking, helping with prefect radiographs, board prep with filling out the treatment forms, and much more. We also take a “mock board” exam that simulates pretty much exactly what we do during the board
exam, except obviously it is in a different location for the real boards. They give feedback and advice so you know what to work on.

Cadieux: Did you have a job while in the Dental Hygiene program?

Russell: I did not have a job. My husband supported us through the process. Yet, I remained an active volunteer at my kids’ schools, spent many weekends doing fun things (not tied to a book 24/7) and maintained a great home throughout the process. I felt lucky. I did have many classmates who worked part time while in school, and they were all still top-notch students. I am in awe of those who had kids, families, 32 hours a week of school AND part-time jobs—yet they all still graduated, some with honors and awards.