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Writing Goals in Dental Hygiene

Writing goals is a popular technique used in psychology, human resource management, and career planning. Its efficiency has been proved by examples of successful specialists in different fields. Simple as it may seem, writing goals though has certain peculiarities and requires appropriate skills.

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If to represent goals as destinations, and efforts to reach them as roads, then it becomes clear that in order to succeed, one must know exactly what destination is needed, and which way is the shortest.

The technique of writing goals implies keeping a SMART principle, which means that the goals should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timed (1):

  • specific goals help to choose the destination and find the shortest way to it. If a goal is not specific, one may make unnecessary efforts while reaching his goals;
  • measurable goals help to estimate the effort which should be made in order to reach them; as well, they are convenient while controlling personal achievements;
  • attainability of a goal is an important condition which provides guaranty that one’s effort will not be maid in vain;
  • realistic goals are more pleasant to achieve; they provide motivation to reach them;
  • time is also a perfect motivator; it helps not to drop reaching goals.

In other words, writing goals is a means of optimization of the way to reaching them.

However, the question arises, whether setting goals should be fulfilled in written. Indeed, written form of goal setting has been generally evaluated as the most effective. Visualization is considered a strong tool in teaching, psychological trainings and transferring information. Goal writing helps to visualize the goals, to observe and to think them over in detail. It may happen that, after being written, the goals seem to be improper and need to be revised.

Writing goals has its steps: it starts with defining the goals of different levels and in different fields; then one writes small goals which are priority and easy to achieve. After fulfilling them, it is necessary to develop a set of small and long-term goals and range them according to their priority. The next step is to develop timing for the range of goals. It will provide strong motivation and opportunity to control the dynamics of goal achievement.

After a plan has been developed, a stage of implementation begins. While implementing the plan, it is necessary to carry out periodical control in order to determine deviation from the schedule. The whole process finishes with revision, which implies summarizing the results of the work done, developing statements for the next goal setting plan (1).

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It is recommended to write goals in short and positive phrasing. Time and resources should be organized in the way that is optimal for reaching the goals. During fulfilling a plan, visualization can be used for every particular goal (1).

When getting education, it is necessary to have clear understanding of the future goals for getting a job. It is important in terms of time and efforts, as they are the main limitation in one’s activity. Thus, defining the career goals helps not to miss acquiring some skills and to set a priority. Here, the SMART principle is rather useful for the future specialists:

  • specific career goal will help a future dental hygienist to focus on acquiring skills which are necessary for him or her. For example, if one wants to work in the field of administering local anesthesia, while studying he should pay attention to specific issues for this practice; if the career goal is to work with children or to teach students, a future dental hygienist should study elements of pedagogy and psychology.

For example, in the USA, some states allow dental hygienists to work with filling materials, remove sutures and fulfill other procedures Thus, having planned the range of his future responsibilities, a student can advance his knowledge in these fields, not missing job opportunities.

This is consonant to what Michele Darby, professor, textbook author, researcher and eminent scholar, says:

I worry most about those dental hygiene students who say things like “Why do we have to learn this? It’s not relevant to being a dental hygienist.” Blindly, they are limiting their futures with this type of attitude (2).

The SMART principle works for the employed dental hygienists as well: setting measurable goals is aimed at estimation of the dental hygienist’s performance. When comparing planned results and the actual performance, one can make corrections in terms of his work intensity and quality;

Besides every day clinic practice, among opportunities for the dental hygienists are teaching and lecturing, research and writing, administration activity and building business. Dental hygienists are employed by multinational corporations, such as Procter&Gamble, and take leadership positions at the national medical organizations. There is no need to remind about how wide a range of necessary skills is in order to succeed in all these fields, and how important writing of career goals is.

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Dental hygiene specialists can use their skills in writing goals not only while planning their career, but as well in their professional activity.

The dental hygiene practice has the following general steps:

  • assessing the patient, which means defining his problems and their rates;
  • dental hygiene diagnosis;
  • planning, which implies creating a treating program for a client, identifying necessary therapies and optimal timing;
  • implementation of the treating program;
  • evaluation of the program’s efficiency (3).

These steps are incredibly similar to the stages of the goal writing: in fact, during his working time, a dental hygienist fulfills goal setting every day.

The process of dental hygiene care requires planning and structuring. Writing goals helps not to miss important details while working upon a client’s case and developing a program for him.

Writing goals when working with a patient has a range of advantages:

  • it helps to set a contact with a patient, and to make the care plan specific and clear for the client. A patient can see the whole future care program and to understand, what effect will any procedure bring to him;
  • visualization of the future care process encourages a patient and makes him fulfill the care plan properly;
  • writing goals helps to control the patient’s progress by himself and by his dental hygienist. When the first results according to the goals written can be seen, a patient gets a sense of treatment.
  • timing also has good influence on a client. It often happens, that, not seeing a momentary result, a client is disappointed in treatment. Goal writing explains when the procedures will bring effect.

As writing goals is often used in medicine, a general approach has been developed. Barbara Kozier proposes the following guideline (4):

  • goals should be written in positive phrasing;
  • each step should state a patient’s response, not a doctor’s action;
  • goals should be realistic for the client, otherwise it will destroy his motivation. Only seeing his ability to fulfill the plan, the patient puts efforts into his treatment;
  • goals should be measured and provided with timing.

While setting goals in the work with clients, it is important to take into account their priorities, which depend on the following factors (4):

  • patient’s health values and beliefs. It means, that a patient may underrate the importance of health care or be against some type of treatment. This may influence on the care process:
  • patient’s priorities. Clients have different perception of what is important in treating: it can be money saving, low painful sensation, quick result et al;
  • resources available to a doctor and to a client. This include both money and necessary equipment;
  • urgency of problems. While writing goals, a specialist defines, what problems should be treated initially.

Thus, writing goals will save resources and time, avoiding conflicts of interest and providing a treatment plan, optimal for the client.

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When writing goals for the client care, it is convenient to refer to different sources which will be used in the client’s treatment. If a client has to fulfill some procedures at home, written goals with such references.

Dental hygienists who have leading positions in the clinics or any other organizations, have to write goals for the whole staff. Here, the skills of defining, explaining and measuring goals, as well as controlling and revising their fulfilling, are indispensable.

There are other examples of implementation of goal writing skills. Particularly, writing goals is an effective tool while explaining the importance of Dental Hygiene in elementary classes. To represent information in a form of a game, using discussions, visualization and different tasks is an effective approach, which inspires students and makes them be attentive at the lesson. Writing goals includes both visualization and challenge, and implies personal approach instead of limiting by general knowledge.

For example, it is recommended to cut tooth shapes from white paper and ask children to write goals, such as flossing every day, brushing twice daily. Then the tooth shapes are hanged in the shape of a mouth, which forms a visualized goal and shows the way to its achievement (5).

Thus, experience in writing personal goals assists a dental hygienist in optimization of his professional activity.

Reference List

Wilson SB, Dobson MS. Goal Setting: How to Create an Action Plan and Achieve Your Goals. New York : American Management Association; 2008.

Dimensions of Dental Hygiene. Beyond Clinical Practice. Web.

Darby LD, Walsh MM. Dental hygiene theory and practice. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders; 1995.

Kozier b, Harvey S, Lake R. Fundamentals of Nursing. United Kingdom: Gardners Books; 2007.

Frost S. Dental Hygiene Activities for Children. [Online]. [2010]. Web.

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