Editor's Note: Patricia Brooks was recently chosen as the Innovative Dental Assistant of the Year, an award sponsored by 3M ESPE and supported by ADAA, DANB, and Dental Assisting Digest™. Brooks was selected from a pool of 300 nominees, each of whom had commendable traits, in and out of the dental office. Recently, Brooks took a few moments to talk to Dental Assisting Digest™ about her life, her job, and winning the award.
Dental Assisting Digest™: How did you get involved in dental assisting?
Pat Brooks: Helping people in a professional setting was appealing to me.
DAD: What's your favorite thing about being a dental assistant?
Brooks: I am a people person, and I enjoy putting people at ease during their dental experience. I have worked for 28 years for Rural Health Corporation and have really enjoyed all of my years there.
DAD: I know you're an Expanded Functions Dental Assistant (EFDA), giving you additional responsibilities in the clinic. Tell our readers who don't live in EFDA states the benefits of EFDA.
Brooks: In our center specifically, an EFDA can help with patient flow, so we are able to meet the needs of many patients throughout the day. An EFDA actually has his or her own schedule, and is able to place and polish restorations, place sealants, etc., under the direct supervision of a dentist.
DAD: You currently work for a community health center. What are the challenges and rewards of your job?
Brooks: Since we are a community health center, our population is diverse and includes all socioeconomic groups. Our general practice provides a very high standard of care. We focus on infection control, equipment maintenance, and quality of materials. I have been on many patient care committees aimed at improving and maintaining the best care for our patients. Our office helps many people that would otherwise receive no dental care or very limited care.
Another part of my job responsibility is ordering supplies for three dental centers. I enjoy this challenge as I get to "schmooze" dental suppliers for the best price.
Our corporation has core values for all of us to follow that include integrity, accountability, teamwork, compassion, and courtesy.
DAD: I also know you have a passion for children and their health. Tell me about the outreach you and your clinic do in the community.
Brooks: The dentist and I have visited many HeadStart, kindergarten, and Children's Development Council classes. We have given a presentation on brushing and eating healthy. We use an animal puppet to demonstrate proper brushing and allow the children to have hands-on experience. The children totally enjoy themselves, which gives us personal satisfaction. We attended a health fair in May with 300 children
DAD: Your daughter is a dentist and you assisted for her during her boards. What was that like?
Brooks: It was very stressful but rewarding.
DAD: So what was your reaction when you heard you had won the Innovative Dental Assistant of the Year award?
Brooks: I was at a loss for words. Everyone knows, "that never happens."
DAD: You were nominated for the award by one of your co-workers, Mary Ann Kapral. She describes you as the "coach" of the office. How important is it, in your opinion, to be a mentor or to find someone who is a mentor?
Brooks: Since I am a sports enthusiast, being part of a team is very fulfilling. My 35 years of experience allows me to accept the role of mentor to keep up with new procedures and technology.
DAD: What are some thoughts you'd like to leave with the dental assistants who read this article?
Brooks: Your role in the dental office is vital to patient care. Never forget your value to the office operations. Humor is important in the office not only interactions with patients (which eases their fears), but also with my co-workers, including the dentists.
Editor's Note: Dental Assisting Digest™ is a monthly e-newsletter geared toward enriching the personal and professional lives of dental assistants. To sign up to receive a free subscription, visit www.dentalassistingdigest.com.