Carrington College Blog

Nurturing Dreams: Kaycee Murphy’s Pursuit of Becoming a Dental Hygienist

February 14, 2024

As a wife and mother of two young daughters, Kaycee Murphy knew she had to act now to stick her landing in the career of her dreams as a Dental Hygienist. There would never be a perfect time to lean into the stresses of balancing home and family responsibilities with a commitment to education, but she knew the longer she waited, the harder it would be to embrace that challenge.

Besides, she knew she had a lot to bring to a position that would make good use her natural empathy and previous work experience with special needs children in ways that would soften patients’ dentist chair anxieties. Her instincts were right on target.


How did your work experience lead you to a Dental Hygiene career?

With my Bachelor’s degree in Human Development, I worked one-on-one with kids with autism who were mostly non-verbal and had severe anxiety. I went with them to their medical procedures and dental appointments and when dentists had to put their fingers inside their mouths, that’s when I thought about merging this support I was providing with becoming a Dental Hygienist. I knew instinctively how those procedures could be more easily tolerated by emotionally sensitive kids.

My skills and training would be a rare specialty for a dental office with that kind of background and experience. But I had to start somewhere, so getting my Dental Hygiene credentials would get my toe into the field.


What was your first step?

I looked at community college, but once I finished my pre-reqs and qualified for that 20-month program, there was still going to be a 2-3 year wait list.

My cousin told me about Carrington College, so I started doing research online for their Dental Hygiene program. I went to an information session on campus, and it was super nice to walk in and see classrooms and clinics with students working on actual patients. It was very professional, clean, comfortable – definitely a place of learning.

I submitted an application and was approved about a month later. It all happened pretty fast.


Were there any big surprises about Carrington College’s Dental Hygiene program?

My first surprise was that they don’t waste any time. We dove right into material we would be using every day. We got instruments (for teeth cleaning) right away. You think, “I’m never going to be ready to use this.” It was also daunting because you feel you really have to master this because you are absolutely going to use them. And we get to keep them!

It was good because you know that what you’re learning is what you’re going to be doing in this position. That’s really neat!


Did you get the instructor support you needed?

The teachers have been wonderful! They relate to our struggles and are very approachable. They make me feel like my questions matter, and I never felt dumb for asking one. They take the time to answer it fully.  It makes me feel supported.

I know of students who had to go and ask instructors for help and were really nervous. They said they were so relieved afterwards after reaching out.


Do Dental Hygiene students support each other?

We have study groups and really good camaraderie. At lunchtime no one is ever alone. We have laughed together, cried together; it’s just a really good group of students who very much want each other to succeed.


What helped you get through some of the difficult times in the Dental Hygiene program?

I had to lower my expectations of myself. I don’t have to get 100% on everything. It’s ok to get a B so that I can have better balance in my life. Take that mental pressure off yourself. As long as you’re passing, you can still be there for your kids.


What has been your greatest struggle?

Time and guilt. Not being there for the kids. But it’s a sacrifice right now for long-term good.

Definitely trying to balance home life with school life. Being a mom with two little kids, I want to maximize my time with them, while still giving study enough time. That balance is pretty tricky. I’m sure a lot of people can relate to that struggle.


Do you have the family support you need?

I’m very blessed to have a husband (Peter) who works for our family. My parents (Gary and Ellen) help with daycare and take our older daughter to and from school. My husband can work from home some days and we have a back-up system, too. We feel like it’s a little bit of a madhouse sometimes, but we know it’s worth it.


What is one of your favorite moments in your Dental Hygiene class?

Finding out that I was a recipient of the Irving Wohl Scholarship award! (The $1,000. scholarship was created in memory of Irving Wohl who came in once a year to have his teeth cleaned at Carrington College’s Dental Hygiene’s dental lab, even several years after he turned 100-years old.) The essay was about how you plan to use your dental hygiene skills to improve and better the community. I shared my plan to help special needs kids who are often too afraid to see the dentist.

Also, receiving our dental cleaning instruments, we get to keep, was an amazing moment!


What motivates you to complete your Dental Hygiene program?

I have two main motivations: the first one is the special needs community I hope to serve. The second is my two little girls (Ellie and Rory). I want to be an example for them. I want them to know that they are capable of doing things because they have seen Mom do hard things. I fall back on those two things that keep me going forward.


Who do you most want to emulate?

Definitely my mom, Ellen; she is amazing. My mom has always focused on the underdog, rooting for them. I’ve always seen and admired that in her, and I want to be just like her. I hope to be half the person she is.


What advice do you have for others considering a career in the Dental Hygiene field?

This is so hard, but when you look back it will be like, ‘Man, that was so fast!’ It seems like it is never going to end…but it does. You have to have that long-term perspective and the mental capacity to just keep going.

You don’t have to strive for perfection. Take that mental pressure off yourself.  As long as you’re doing your best – and passing – you can also be there for your family.


What outcome are you looking for?

So many special needs kids don’t get the care they need because they’re too afraid. I always want my work to make a difference. Providing emotional support services in addition to my dental hygiene services is a gap I can fill.

Ideally, I would work part time and spend the rest of the week with my girls. I am open to the idea of independent business (contractor), but I’m a one-step-at-a-time person and want to get some experience under my belt, for sure.

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