Welcome to Week 50 of the MFRWauthor 52-Week Blog Challenge. Two more weeks of blogging and I’ll have managed to post something every week for an entire year! That’s a great example of my personal motto in action: persist and accomplish. Which leads me to this week’s topic prompt – My Greatest Accomplishment.
I’ve had to think about this topic. I feel like we’ve covered it already in a post on bragging, plus it’s hard to narrow down one’s life to a specific greatest accomplishment unless you’re someone like Neil Armstrong. Since I haven’t done anything as remarkable as walk on the moon, I’m going to go with telling you about the achievement that was the toughest over the long haul and changed my life the most: graduating from dental hygiene school.
When I made the decision to get my degree, I was a recently divorced, single mom. I hadn’t gone to college after high school because my parents hadn’t gone and they were doing just fine. I was already engaged by the end of high school and figured we’d have two incomes, so why sit through another few years of school? Fast forward thirteen years and I became the aforementioned single mom with two kids to support on my somewhat meager salary. If their dad didn’t pay his child support, I was going to have a problem (he always did pay it, but I had no way of knowing if he would when we were first divorced).
Getting into hygiene school was no easy task. I had to go through prerequisite classes that were darn tough (try looking at a tiny flag that’s planted in a random body area of a cadaver and answering which vein/muscle/whatever it’s sticking out of!). I also took those classes while working full time and parenting. Okay, lots of people do that, but hygiene school itself was very difficult to get into – only 15 people were accepted into the program each year, out of more than 100 applicants. This meant I not only had to take my prereqs, I had to ace them because grade point average was the determining factor.
Once I was accepted (hallelujah!), I had an 80-mile per day round trip commute to school. I couldn’t work because school was Monday to Friday from 8:00 until 4:30 (I had two young kids at home, so how could I work part time on top of school?). Because I knew this going in, I’d scrimped and saved while taking my prereqs (those took 3 years to get through), so we lived off my savings and drastically cut corners (my son still refuses to shop at Goodwill because of it, lol). I took student loans and my former boss (I’d been a dental receptionist) allowed me to do his bookkeeping while I was in school, which helped.
School consisted of practical courses (things like head and neck anatomy, microbiology, the study of periodontal disease, giving anesthesia, pharmacology (medications) – you know – easy courses, lol). You HAD to pass each class with an 80% grade or you failed it. If you failed two classes, you were out of school. One classmate’s husband was working on his MBA while she was in school – he complained that she had to study far more than he did.
I also took clinical courses where you had to work on patients. In order to graduate, you had to complete a certain number of a certain type of procedure (for example: I think I had to take something like 80 sets of xrays, 10 of which had to be on kids, and I had to find someone who was missing all of their teeth to take a set of 20 xrays on them!). There were tons of requirements like this. As each semester progressed, we’d start freaking and saying things to classmates, like “I need two more kids! I’ll trade you my moderate periodontal patient for two kids and an adult!”
When I finished hygiene school requirements, there was still the matter of passing my state and national Boards exams, as well as patient Boards. The national Boards consisted of a 6-hour written test, the state one was about 3 hours. You failed the exam if you got less than 80% on either of them. You got two chances to pass, after that you could not try again without going back through two more years of hygiene school.
The patient Boards meant paying for the exam (not cheap, trust me), finding a qualified patient (not easy because they had to meet certain dental requirements), praying that patient would (a) make the trip to the exam site two hours away (they often don’t), (b) show up for the exam (they often don’t), and (c) actually qualify when the Dental Board examined them at the start of the exam (they often don’t). If any of those fell through, you had to reschedule the exam and find a new patient and start the process again. The Boards aren’t just given every week either. It’s a Big Deal – the next exam might not be scheduled for two more months…in another state (a friend didn’t finish her school patient requirements in time to sit for the Boards in our state so she had to FLY a patient to another state, pay for his hotel/plane/food for the next scheduled exam, then that patient didn’t qualify when the Board dentists did the pre-test exam. Luckily, she got a patient from a dental student who was also testing that weekend.)
Miraculously, I passed everything (and graduated summa cum laude, to boot). That’s me on the bottom row, right (last person on the right). Just writing this article makes my stomach clench. If I hadn’t believed in ‘persist and accomplish’, I would never have made it. The struggle was worth it, though – my income rose and I no longer had to rely on the ex, which was the whole point. I’ve been at the same office for half of my twenty year career and I’ve enjoyed meeting (most) of the thousands of people I’ve worked on. I’ve learned a lot from my patients and I’m blessed to have met (most of) them.
What’s your greatest accomplishment? Click here to see what the other authors on this blog hop say about theirs.
Thanks for dropping by!