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Carrington College Blog

Vicki Van Hoogen Graduated in the Second Dental Hygiene Class at Carrington and is now Teaching the Fortieth Class!

February 24, 2022

Vicki Van Hoogen Please tell us a little bit about yourself. 

I graduated in the second Dental Hygiene class at Carrington. To put that in perspective, I am now teaching the fortieth class! I started teaching in 2003 and have taught in different capacities since then. I have had a couple of hiatuses where I have only worked in private practice, but I have been back teaching on-campus part-time since 2019. I’ve held both part-time and full-time positions over the years. I teach clinical dental hygiene in the clinic and in the classroom I teach oral anatomy, embryology, and histology.   

I entered the dental hygiene world when I was nineteen years of age as a dental assistant. A dentist who knew me offered me a position. I was taking nursing prerequisites at the community college thinking that nursing was going to be my direction. I picked up a job in dentistry just to fill in my schedule. The work just kind of stuck with me and I kept doing it for years. So, when I had a chance to go back to school for hygiene, I did that. I also have a degree in management. And while I was teaching, I decided to get a Master’s in Education so that would enhance my teaching resume. I also have been married for over 40 years to a Boisean. We have lived in other places but we always migrate back to Boise, so this is home to me. We have five grown children, who are all in the Boise area with their spouses, and thirteen grandchildren.  


It sounds like the position you took with that dentist opened a lot of doors! 

Yes, it did. The dentist who hired me was young and just starting his practice way back then. I’ve been very thankful that he gave an inexperienced kid a shot to come in and work. I had no idea dentistry was even in my wheelhouse at that point, but it stuck. I have been ever-so-grateful. I’ve since told him, “thank you for taking a chance on an inexperienced and immature nineteen-year-old and giving me that shot.” I think about that all the time when I am teaching with students who are just starting out and hoping that I give them the same kind of encouragement. That is something that has characterized my career–there were always those people who gave me a shot. Even getting into hygiene school didn’t seem obtainable to me–I thought, I’ll never get in–but then there were those instructors who mentored and coached me. I am really thankful because I’ve been truly blessed.   


Would you say those early experiences and opportunities informed how you teach?  

Absolutely. I hope that it comes across that way. We have students from every imaginable background, some of whom this is what they have always dreamed of doing. There are single moms who are trying to make a better life for themselves. There are students who come here and leave their spouses in other parts of the country, as far away as Alaska, to come here to fulfill a dream. I feel this incredible amount of responsibility to help them along and give them the best shot they have for their life. Dental hygiene is a significant career and it changes everything. I hope that they see that in me. It is my goal that I am approachable enough that they can get the help that they need.  


What do you like the most about the Dental Hygiene program at Carrington? 

I think that we have a unique temperament in our program that is shared by my colleagues. I have observed other Dental Hygiene programs and I’ve received testimony from people who have attended other hygiene programs where their temperament has been more militant than ours. The instructors are aloof and say, ‘this is what we expect of you.’ Whereas, I have always loved our program because I have always seen it as taking more of a mentoring and coaching alongside the student’s approach. We have always taken the position of ‘let me show you how to do this.’ That has always been encouraged. We are coaches and mentors. I think the biggest compliment I ever got from a student was not, ‘hey, you’re a great teacher.’ It was, ‘thank you for believing in me and helping me through hard things.’ I think that there is no greater compliment than that. 


Do you have any insight for people interested in going into dental hygiene?  

It’s hard, but it’s the most rewarding thing that you’ll do. It’s challenging. Be prepared to study hard and to work hard. There are many milestones in dental hygiene. You have to get through the first semester of the basics and then you start to see patients and get your patient requirements done. Our students have to take four very large board exams–both written and clinical. When the students get to the end and they finish their boards, it is a sense of huge accomplishment for them. We have a group text among us as instructors as boards are taking place and messages are going out, ‘so-and-so passed and so-and-so passed.’ That way we get to celebrate with them.  


Do you have any advice for students who are already enrolled?  

I just finished up my lecture for students finishing their first term today. I told them, don’t procrastinate. I know it is easy to do, but my biggest advice to them is just “get it done”–or “get ‘er done.” Keep pushing. We are there to help, sometimes even cattle prod a little bit. I also told them to be sure to ask for help. Don’t sweat it alone. If you need help, grab one of us and if that person can’t help you at that time, grab somebody else! We are going to help push or pull you through it. We know what our job is. We are there to help.  

I have the privilege of being one of their first classroom instructors. I always congratulate them on their first day for earning a seat in the Dental Hygiene program. They earned their spot. They took an entrance exam. Some of them took prerequisites. They deserve to be congratulated for earning that spot. They earned our respect and they earned the expectation that we are going to help them through.    


What do students struggle with the most in that program? 

That would have to be getting their patient requirements done because they have to see patients who qualify in so many different categories. Sometimes the patient that they have in their chair isn’t going to meet the category they need. Then, as they move along, they have much harder patients, and then getting closer to boards, they will have specific patient requirements and certain patients that will only qualify for boards. I think that makes the students nervous about whether they will get all of their patients done. When they first start out, their patients are relatively easy and have a high dental IQ. Then they will move on to patients who don’t have as high of a dental IQ or have systemic diseases and might be on medications. They’ll see patients who have periodontal diseases who haven’t taken care of their teeth for years. They see a whole gamut of patients that meet specific requirements.  


Do you see a wide variety of patients in your clinic at the school? 

Yes, so another thing that is great with this program is we charge nothing for the dental care we provide our patients in our clinic. The cleanings, exams, and x-rays are all complimentary. We have a particularly great following by some senior citizens who are our patients because they don’t have dental insurance and they have time to sit in an educational setting. The clinic is a great benefit to our community for people who do not have dental insurance. They would get no care anywhere else and we are providing a significant level of dental care for that underserved community. We have a lot of immigrants in Boise, so our students are getting an education that is so far beyond the classroom because they are meeting people from all kinds of different cultures and all different walks of life. That is exactly what they need for when they get out and they are working in the field.     


Is there anything that we left out that you would like to share? 

My teaching philosophy is to emulate the behavior and professionalism that I would like to see them model back to me. My colleagues and I truly love the students. It is fun to watch them go from what we call ‘kindergarten hygiene,’ where their hands are literally shaking, to senior term, where they are begging for our attention. There are a lot of tears shed at graduation because we truly become like family and shed a lot of tears when we have to part ways. I don’t think you can get that same kind of experience from a large university.  



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