“Your services are no longer required”, “We’re taking things in a different direction”, “I’m afraid we’re going to have to let you go”...however it’s worded, all three of these phrases mean the same thing — you’re fired. Regardless of whether or not the dismissal was your fault, being asked to pack up your things and leave the dental office is a nerve-wracking experience that will leave you feeling shaken and worried.
Most dental hygienists assume that simply doing a good job means they can avoid being fired. While this would be true in an ideal world, it’s just not like that in real life. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how well you get on with your patients, how many targets you meet or how well you work alongside other employees. You can still be the best and get sacked for reasons beyond your control.
The Holmes and Rahe scale states being fired to be the 8th most stressful life event people can experience. If you find yourself in this position, it’s important to take a step back and realize it’s not the end of the world. There are steps you can take to get yourself back into the dental practice and treating patients just like before.
Always remain professional
No matter how angry, upset or betrayed you feel, it’s important you always remain professional when you’re at work. When you’re asked to leave, quickly and quietly collect your things, say a brief “goodbye” to your coworkers and get out of there. Try not to burn bridges — you don’t want to destroy any potential professional connections — and you’ll feel much better about yourself if you handle your dismissal with dignity and grace.
Develop a problem-solving frame of mind
When you get home, give yourself some time to be emotional and grieve. When your feelings have subsided, you’ll find yourself in a much better frame of mind to leave the past behind you and plan how you’re going to move on with your future.
Start off by maintaining a steady stream of income by applying for unemployment benefits. These will help tide you over until you’ve got back on your feet. It can take literally weeks to begin receiving payments, so make signing up for any eligible benefits a priority.
Review your career position
Now is a great time to review your professional position and really think about if you were happy where you were. Dentistry is an incredible career for the future, so it’s unlikely you’re going to want to change industry. But did you enjoy working as an employee for a dentist? Were you happy walking into the same practice each day and working alongside the same coworkers all the time? Or would you rather take control of your career and go it alone as an independent contractor?
Just because you’ve only ever worked as an employed dental hygienist or dental assistant doesn’t mean you have to continue working that way. You always have the option of offering your services on a freelance basis.
Reassess your résumé
Whether you’re deciding to search for a job as an employed dental professional or embrace entrepreneurship and go down the independent contractor route, you should update your resume.
Take a look at our suggestions for the best ways to make your dental resume stand out and make sure you implement them. These tips also work for creating an eye-catching online profile for a job matching site like Cloud Dentistry. So even if you’re considering focusing exclusively on freelancing, it’s still worth re-evaluating your resume and ensuring it’s up-to-date.
Showing potential employers that you can keep up with the times where resumes are concerned implies that you’re also saying up-to-date with dentistry.
Become an independent contractor
Being an independent contractor dental hygienist or dental assistant opens up a whole new professional world of opportunity. You can work as a freelancer while also seeking full-time employment, you can temp in addition to working part-time as an employee or you can fully immerse yourself and become a full-time independent contractor. The choice is entirely yours.
Pros of being a dental independent contractor
- High demand — you’ll never struggle to find work as an RDH or RDA
- Set your hourly rate — you get to decide how much your time is worth
- Choose your work schedule — work as many or as few hours as you like
- You can open your own practice — most states allow RDHs to open their own office
- High job satisfaction — dental hygienist and dental assistant are listed in the 100 best jobs in the USA
Cons of being a dental independent contractor
- Lack of security — you can never be sure how much money you’re going to make
- No benefits — you don’t get any medical care, vacation leave, sick pay, etc
- Few patient relationships — when you work at different practices, you rarely see patients more than once
- More stressful — you have to market yourself and find your own clients
- Taxes — you’ve got to take responsibility for your own taxes
For more examples of advantages and disadvantages, take a look at this post which asks whether being an independent dental hygienist is right for you.
Important things you need to know
Being an independent contractor is totally different to being an employee. Working for yourself means taking on a lot more responsibility and risking much greater penalties if you let things slide, especially when it comes to taxes. But as long as you keep on top of the legal aspects, you’ll find that being a freelance dental professional is an incredibly rewarding and fulfilling career.
As an independent contractor, you can choose to be a sole proprietor or the sole owner of an LLC. Whichever option you choose, you’re in charge of paying federal, state and possibly local taxes every year. So you can accurately fill out the paperwork, it’s important you track your income and expenses and keep all business-related receipts. As an independent contractor, you need to file a tax return by mid april and make estimated quarterly payments three more times each year: once by mid-June, once by mid-September and once by mid-January.
If you’ve collected $600+ from a single client in one calendar year, the client is required to send you a 1099 form by the following January 31st. You then must file the 1099 form with the IRS by February 28th. Unfortunately, this is just the tip of the iceberg.
For more detailed information about filing taxes as an independent contractor dental hygienist or dental assistant, take a look at Intuit’s freelancer’s guide to taxes.
As a dental professional, you need to renew your license every 1-3 years to be allowed to practice legally. If you were previously employed, your employer might have taken care of this for you. But if you become an independent contractor, you’re responsible for ensuring your license is up-to-date.
To renew your license, you’ve got to pay the required fees and prove you’ve completed between 10 and 60 ongoing education hours, depending on how long it’s been since you last renewed your license. Find out more about license renewal and dental hygiene education.
Being fired isn’t always a bad thing
Losing your job isn’t the end of the world. Sometimes it’s exactly what you need to re-evaluate your professional life and consider if you’re going down the path. While no one wants to be fired, being in this position forces you to take control and gives you the opportunity to make your career your own.