The Impact of Our Lessons

Kate Cutter, Adjust Instructor, Dental Hygiene Program

Often as educators, we are focused on our plan to teach students in the best way possible. We continue our life-long learning to find the best ways to successfully teach our diverse learners in our ever-changing society. Along this journey, I’ve learned that our students teach us more than we realize.

Our students in the dental hygiene program come to us from quite diverse backgrounds. We have students from other countries, students fresh from high school, and mature students raising families just to name a few. One student taught me early on in my teaching career the importance of what we do for EVERYONE.

In pre-clinic class, we start teaching students the basic procedures in a typical dental hygiene appointment. One of these procedures is an examination of the face, head, and neck called an extra-oral exam. Having personally practiced as a dental hygienist for many years, I have noticed this step in the appointment process is often skipped and the value is lost in private practice.

As the students begin seeing patients in clinic, one student brought her teenage son in as her patient. After the student completed her extra-oral exam, I was the instructor called in to check her work and go over the findings. Going through the exam, the student found a significantly enlarged lymph node. With this finding, a discussion took place with the student which connected the things we learn in the book to real life situations. Additionally, that discussion reinforced my belief that every “little” procedure that we learn and teach throughout our education is important. Later, the student came up to me and thanked me because the student followed up with a primary care doctor. This led to further evaluation and early detection of something with much greater implication.

Rarely are significant findings actually found, but for this student the lesson was valuable. One can only hope it will continue to be a reminder throughout our careers that no matter the age of our patients, thorough patient care has its’ significance for all. Corners should not be cut to save time because you never know when you will have the opportunity to make a big impact. This experience reminded me that every lesson that we teach can make a big impact that provides life-long skills that ensure a successful career.