I don’t know if you’re like me, but when I hear the words “Rules and Regulations” I instantly want to get in my jammies, grab a soft blanket, light a fire and fall asleep because there is nothing in that phrase that makes me want to continue listening. However, when I hear the word “inactive license” or “license is in default” my blood pressure rises and I am listening to Every. Single. Word. Dental hygiene school was one of the hardest things I have accomplished in my life and nothing makes me feel sicker to my stomach than the thought of compromising my license. Lets be honest, I don’t know ONE person who has actually pulled out their 200 pages of rules and regulations and sat down and read them since they passed their jurisprudence exam. Why is that you might ask? I previously just assumed and hoped I was in compliance or I was hoping to not get audited. The crazy thing is, there are so many different rules in every single state that I had NO clue about until I started doing my research for CE Zoom. Through my research I realized a lot of pretty interesting things that have given me more motivation and have made me even more passionate about what my business partner Kat and I have created. For those of you who hate getting continuing education and like to cheat the system, I’m probably not going to be your best friend and you are going to curse my name, but for those of you who do stay compliant and truly care about furthering your knowledge and education making you more valuable to your office and your patients, you will be excited to read more about how I am changing the way state’s regulate licensed professionals and how I am changing the way conferences prove that you actually attended their course(s) and earned your credit.
I’m going to start off with some facts that hopefully will make you start thinking about your own license. Did you know that most states require you to obtain CE from an approved provider? Do you know what an approved provider is or how to find one? You may be aware that most states require you to receive some of your credit by attending a live course and some credits can be earned through home study. That’s the easy stuff that is clearly laid out while reading your rules and regulations, but did you know some states only allow a few hours toward your renewal in courses with topics on business, self improvement, motivational speaking, or business finance just to name a few? However, some states don’t accept that at all? What about the course topic on ergonomics? Every dental professional could use a course on ergonomics and the proper way to position themselves to help achieve a long pain free career in dentistry. Most would consider this course to count towards their required CE for license renewal, I know I thought it would count, but how is the course ergonomics “directly” related to patient care? Would you consider this course “self improvement”? Some, in fact a lot of states call out that you cannot get credit for courses related to self improvement. Just something to think about. Also there is one state in particular where we have received feedback from several licensed professionals that it’s crazy but they don’t have to have CPR to renew their license! Being in the business that I am, I found that very interesting because that along with infection control is a federal regulation, so I called that state and asked them. The answer was exactly what I thought; they DO need CPR and couldn’t believe that people thought they didn’t! I was directed to where it was stated in their rules and regulations so I could read it for myself. Here is my point. I can only speak for myself but I’m going to go ahead and assume that no one in the profession of dentistry has a desire to be a rebel and not be compliant. We all strive to do the right thing and want to attend courses that we know will count for our state, but it’s not black and white. There are so many questions with not a lot of answers. Reading a state’s rules and regulations requires a great deal of knowledge on HOW to read them. We aren’t lawyers, but it is written in such language.
I have another question. Do you assume that just because you attend a “dental “ conference that every course counts towards your individual state’s rules? How about if it’s your own states annual scientific session. Without a doubt right? We (CE Zoom) ran a conference a few months ago that shed light on some things I found to be a bit alarming. As I was entering in the courses of the conference that we were helping with, I realized that according to my understanding and knowledge of that state, 3 of the 7 courses didn’t most likely wouldn’t count towards the state’s rules and regulations. Again, this was a state’s association putting on the conference. Anyone would “assume” every course would count because it’s being put on by a state association. Then I thought to myself, why would we have these rules “un”clearly written out for us if the state didn’t want us to follow these rules? What do you think? Should those courses count or not? Again, not black and white. A few months after this conference I was approached by the same association and they were asking me questions about certain courses and if I would approve them through CE Zoom in which I had to remind them that I am not the one who wrote these rules and regulations. I am not the one approving or disapproving courses, I have just created a tool to help dental professionals stay compliant. I in no way am guaranteeing that I am right or wrong, but I have a very good understanding about which states require and allow what, and which state’s don’t. Until I have the individual state using CE Zoom for their auditing I will never say CE Zoom is 100% correct. We have even had a few states where we have called to clarify a rule in their rules and regulations to be told that in order for me to understand MY rules to keep MY license I have to hire an attorney because if they tell me something and I assume it means something it doesn’t, the state could be held liable. Seriously? Why is it so difficult to stay compliant?
Funny story. I have been obtaining my CPR from the same provider for the past 15 years. We all love her! She’s funny, entertaining, and most importantly, we get through our training in a good timely manner. It wasn’t until I created CE Zoom and was entering in my own CE that I realized my CPR doesn’t count for my state! The woman giving my CPR isn’t an approved provider for the state in which I am licensed, therefore, should never make it through an audit. My question is what is the problem with this? Does it even matter? Lets say worst-case scenario, what if I have a patient die in my chair because I didn’t perform correct CPR? What do you think will happen? Will I be sued? The doctor? The state? All three of us? Again, I don’t really know, but I for one do not want to find out the answer to that question. My point is, to the best of my knowledge, I was in compliance with my license, when in all reality, I wasn’t. My CPR is in good standing now that I know I wasn’t in compliance.
I don’t write this article to blame or call anyone out. I have read several surveys and there are a lot of people upset about the fact that there needs to be better regulation at the state level. Individuals feel everyone should be held to the level that it states in the rules. I have studied this for years and am here to tell you that I feel most states want to do a good job at this and some states do a phenomenal job at it but the fact is dental board members are all volunteers. Meaning, they don’t get paid to do this job that is actually a very important and tough job to volunteer and give up their free time for! I have not done research on every single state’s dental boards and dental board staff, but I will tell you what I have learned from the few that I have observed. Before I started my research as a dental hygienist, I assumed I was being watched with laser vision goggles from every person at the state level and they knew that I didn’t get my CE until right before I was supposed to turn it all in. I just knew it! I was completely wrong! Now I know some states are very good about regulation, but for others, it’s all they can do to just tell you your being audited and have their 5% of the licensee’s send in their proof. When the 20-150 pieces of paper arrive to the state for them to audit, the dental staff member who is doing the audit (usually someone hired and trained without a law degree or any form of dental education) they have to have the rules pretty much memorized. Yes they can reference with any questions, but most states are very strict with their rules! Imagine sifting through that many papers trying to place them in categories and making sure they aren’t allowing more than a certain amount in one category, and making sure they met the requirement in another, all while trying to tally “live” or “home study” or whether they took at test with the home study to count correctly. There’s a lot to go through to the point that we even had one state flat out tell us that they don’t audit because they don’t have the means to. I don’t know about you, but when I go to the doctor, I want to feel comfortable that this doctor who has been practicing for 30+ years is up to date with information and not practicing 30 year-old dentistry! We all know how fast technology and science are changing! We are learning information faster than some people can put it into effect before something new is learned! When I graduated school, we were pre-medicating for everything! Now, it ‘s a rare occasion if we pre-medicate at all. Continuing education is SO important to our profession.
I am facing an uphill battle. No one likes change. Technology is not everyone’s favorite new thing, until they are without it. Remember when we were switching from film to digital radiographs? How difficult was that process? Now think about going to back to film. I wouldn’t want to take the extra 15 min to go in the dark room and develop my radiographs! Also, we would be doing patients a disservice. You and I both know we can diagnose better with digital and less radiation. Remember how hard it was for your office to go from paper to paperless? Trusting the computer is the hardest thing to do, but could you go back to paper? Not a chance. Since my office switched to paperless, we are much more efficient and patients aren’t getting lost and slipping through the cracks! We have a way to stay on top of their treatment and let them know we truly care about their oral health and want to better them. It’s the same with CE Zoom. It’s a new concept, however it is completely necessary and one day we won’t be able to go back to the old way of filing cabinets and digging through mounds of paper.
Sarah Thiel has been in the dental field for 15 years – nine as a hygienist and six as an assistant. She is currently serving as Secretary on the New Mexico Dental Hygiene Committee a branch of the Dental Board. She works clinically one day a week and is a WREB examiner. She is married to a husband who tolerates her crazy ideas all while raising 3 young children. She came up with the idea of CE Zoom from personal experiences and has spent the last 3 years creating the ONLY fully automated state specific CE Tracker and state auditing tool.