22 Apr A DENTAL ASSISTING SCHOOL LIKE NO OTHER BY DEBORAH DOVE
Imagine getting hired to do a job you’ve never actually done before, or trying to hire someone only to find out they have the book knowledge to do a task, but no real-life, hands-on experience. Unfortunately, this is the reality facing most new dental assistants and the dentists trying to hire them, as dentist Dr. Melina Cozby learned when she began the hiring process.
“I would ask how quickly and confidently they could perform a procedure. Most of the time I got a BLANK stare and the same response: ‘I know what to do; I just don’t know how because I have never done it. I just haven’t done it yet,’” says Dr. Cozby.
As she continued to interview assistants, she saw the same thing—students overspending for the book knowledge with no hands on experience. “I felt so bad for these students paying thousands of dollars to attend dental assisting school but never learning how to apply the skills. They would read books, work on mannequins, and look at a plastic tooth, but never actually performed the procedures on a real person, which can be much more challenging. A mannequin has no spit, no blood, no tongue, and no gag reflex,” says Dr. Cozby. “How will you handle your first patient examination where your patient gags and rips the X-ray out of their mouth because you hurt them?”
She compares the typical dental assisting school’s method of teaching to learning French. You can read the vocabulary books, know how to spell the words and use them correctly, but when you fly to France, you suddenly realize you have no idea how to speak French, because you never applied the skill in real life.
Determined to do it better, Dr. Cozby decided to open her own dental assisting school where students could see what dentistry is about in real life—outside the books. Her vision was to teach students HOW to be assistants, offering the necessary classes and book knowledge along with the opportunity to observe dentists practicing in all areas of dentistry—general dentistry, orthodontics, periodontics, endodontics, and pediatrics—and then apply the skills they learned. Just celebrating its third anniversary, Elite Dental Assisting School is like no other school in the area.
“When I built my new office, I built it to accommodate the school,” says Dr. Cozby.
There is a large classroom with a projection screen where book knowledge is studied and reviewed. The large projection system shows patients what procedures look like and the role they play in the procedure and where videos show students what the procedures look like and their role in it.
Elite Dental School guarantees externship hours through their office, and with four doctors in the practice, students can gain a variety of experience by assisting different doctors. However, students are encouraged to find their own externship at one of over seventy-five dental offices that partner with Elite Dental School, and to go to different offices to gain different perspectives. This is one reason for Elite Dental School’s high job placement rate.
“If they trained you and like you, and if they’re looking for an assistant, they’ll hire you,” says Julie Sloan, a registered dental assistant who teaches at the school along with Dr. Cozby.
The school’s unique approach to teaching is also a significant factor, as it results in graduating assistants who are fully capable and ready to immediately start their new career. A key part of this is the hands-on training.
“Having Dr. Cozby here means students can work on patients in a real-life situation,” says Sloan.
An important part of that is the evening hands-on nights. Willing students get a thorough dental examination, which gives the entire class an intimate knowledge of treatment plans, dental software, the dental language and abbreviations, as well as knowing what dental work they need done. After the examination, students are allowed to volunteer and get in what Dr. Cozby calls the “hot seat”. The students gather around to watch the procedure, and the instructor is behind the student assistant to offer guidance and advice while the assistant performs the necessary dental procedure.
The environment is more relaxed for the students, who don’t feel judged since they are treating a fellow student, and it allows plenty of time for Dr. Cozby to walk them through the steps and ask key questions while they’re working, such as “Why did you hand me that?” and “What step comes next?” and “What needs to be in your hands right now?”
“I believe in teaching the students but allowing them to UNDERSTAND the
procedure,” says Dr. Cozby.
Then, when the students graduate, they can confidently say they know every step and have performed them all hands on with patients, not a typodont or mannequin.
“Our students graduate to enter dentistry as an Elite assistant,” says Dr. Cozby.
The school’s next session begins on April 25th. Prospective students are invited to an open house.
OPEN HOUSE – Thursday, April 20th at 6pm. You’re invited to discover more about this exciting and rewarding career. Call Today! 855-653-0495