Grad Q&A with BSDH grad Katherine Powers
SJVC’s BSDH (Bachelor of Science Dental Hygiene) program was the perfect stepping-stone for Katherine Powers who has her sights set on a doctoral degree in her specialty field. As a recent graduate of SJVC’s BSDH inaugural class, she just found out she was accepted into the Clinical Psychology program at Saybrook University, where she will enjoy hybrid online and residential conference classes beginning this Fall.
Katherine’s steady climb toward educational and practical experience is positioning her to thrive at the top of this field.
How did SJVC’s Dental Hygiene programs – both the Associate of Science and Bachelor of Science degrees – fit into your career trajectory?
My parents (Mel and Kasey) both went to SJVC for their Associate’s degree in Dental Hygiene; that’s how we (she and husband, Ben) knew about the school. I think I always knew I wanted to work in health care and my parents gave me great insight into what that looked like. I grew up shadowing their office and thought it was neat that they worked with patients.
I was pursuing my general education at community college and working as a waitress in Northern California before I enrolled in the Dental Hygiene (Associate’s) program in Visalia. I completed the program in 2016, then was a ‘temp’ in an office, hoping for a full-time position. In January 2017 I went to work for a private practice in Arcadia.
Over this last year I continued with SJVC online for my Bachelors (degree) in the program’s debut class.
Were you employed while you were a student in the BSDH program and did Covid impact your work?
While I was in the Bachelor’s (Dental Hygiene) program I was working full-time as a Dental Hygienist in two offices, about 40-48 hours/week combined. It’s been hard at times over the last year and it’s easier to look back on it. In hindsight it goes by quickly, but when you’re in it, it’s more like a ‘treadmill minute’.
During this pandemic there were a lot of changes at work. In the beginning there was so much confusion about how Covid was being transferred. We kept having to revise protocol, and at one point we were wearing two masks and had air filters in our rooms. Most of that is still in place. I still wear a face shield, a lab gown and level-2 and level-3 masks.
At one point I was out of work for three months when we closed our office. Now, our offices are open and have been really great at expanding our appointment times for our patients. We just allow more time to treat each patient and that makes it a little less stressful for everybody.
What did you most like about the Dental Hygiene Bachelor’s program?
I really enjoyed online learning and being able to go to school, but on my time – and not have to compromise my work schedule. It tested my time management skills and made me plan how I was going to get this done.
Building a community with other students online was also one of the best things about the program. There were Respiratory Therapists, Registered Nurses, Dental Hygienists – an array of medical professionals (as classmates) and hearing their stories about their specific professions was interesting. There was just a lot of support and understanding about what health care professionals are going through.
Did you find support when you needed it?
Instructors were always there for support, commenting on our posts and active throughout the learning process with us. They are health care professionals, too, so it was a great benefit to hear their perspective and stories about when they were a dental hygienist or nurse. They had been in my shoes, at this stage, too, trying to figure out how they were going to move forward.
Do you have a favorite moment in your BSDH program?
When I made it to the last class – my research capstone! Everything we’d been learning over this last year comes together for a research paper on the topic of our choice. My topic was: “Studying Burnout in Healthcare Professionals in the Pandemic”. The research I’ve found already confirms what I’ve seen at work. A lot of stress and less enthusiasm about work. We have great coworkers who are trying to keep up with everything and trying to deal with all the new regulations, but who are taking a break from work. It’s not easy to watch at times.
What is your long-term career goal?
I want to continue to grow as a clinician and I think about what I might do some day, if I ever left chairside dental hygiene. Achieving this (BSDH) degree and then becoming a licensed psychologist is where I’m planning on branching off. It’s exciting because I’ve been doing hygiene for 5-years and will keep my license active. But now I can pursue options beyond dental, as well.
Dental Hygiene gave me really good insight into health care. In choosing a graduate degree in clinical psychology – something I really enjoy – I could marry those two and it would give me a perfect tie-in. This is what I really want to do.
What is your best advice for someone considering higher education to stretch their career potential?
It is really important that you find what you’re passionate about. When you find something you truly believe in, that’s when the motivation comes in. If you’re doing it just to get to the next point, it’s really hard to create that self-discipline and motivation each day.
A good question to ask yourself is: ‘What is something I do because I enjoy it?’ What do you like to do in your spare time?
I enjoy what I do and the process of studying it makes it more enjoyable when you’re taking on a lot all at once. And when it’s something that you love, you will surprise yourself with what you can do.
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