An orthodontic team member looking to take the next step in their career progression can get started with the new Sparkle & Shine! Scholarship to attend the upcoming OSAP Booth Camp.
Infection prevention has always been a priority in the orthodontic practice; but, in 2020, practices nationwide redoubled their efforts to ensure the safety of their colleagues and patients amid the COVID-19 pandemic. While some practices have navigated implementation of the latest CDC guidance and OSHA requirements on their own, many others have turned to the few orthodontic infection prevention experts like Jackie Dorst, RDH, BS.
More in demand than ever, Dorst recently came to a realization: The orthodontic specialty needs more infection prevention experts.
Orthodontic Products spoke to Dorst about her career progression, what her day as an infection preventionist looks like, and why this profession is a natural next step for a member of the orthodontic team—whether they just want to be the expert in their office or they want to create their own consulting business. In addition, Dorst talks about the scholarship opportunity she is sponsoring to help train a new generation of orthodontic infection preventionists.
Orthodontic Products: How did you get your start as an infection prevention consultant?
Jackie Dorst, RDH, BS: I was lucky! I made the right connections, and I had the right background. After practicing dental hygiene for 10 years, I was looking at professional growth opportunities. It was during the AIDS pandemic and CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) were publishing new infection control standards and safety laws. I read an advertisement seeking a dental hygienist in the Atlanta area where I lived, to provide in-office education programs. The company hired six RDHs (registered dental hygienists) nationwide, including myself, to give 1 hour in-office infection control seminars. The education was part of their disinfectant marketing program. The RDHs were given a template educational course and then we contacted dental offices in our area and offered the in-office seminar. After the seminar, we gave the office disinfectant samples and discount coupons. We were paid a whopping $50 per seminar—not even enough money to cover expenses; but I enjoyed visiting other dental offices and sharing educational information with the dental teams. The dental teams were anxious to learn what they could do to prevent transmitting AIDS in the office and how they could safely care for patients. It was a scary time—just like now with the COVID-19 pandemic.
I also have a background as a microbiologist, and this was a big asset for the infection control seminars. I graduated from the University of Georgia with a major in microbiology and a minor in chemistry—yes, I am a science nerd! After years working as a bacteriologist for Kraft Foods and with the General Electric Chemical and Metallurgical Division, I went back to school for a dental hygiene degree. Because I had a science background, I was able to add more research and the latest information published by the CDC and OSHA to the basic infection control seminars I was doing.
I was lucky that the company’s Atlanta sales representative saw the value of the infection control education seminars and asked me if I would speak at dental schools, dental hygiene schools, and military bases in its territory. Of course, I said yes. Together, we traveled all over the southeast and it was my introduction to professional speaking. Unfortunately, after 6 months, the company discontinued the educational program. I was disappointed, but grateful for the experience and what I had learned. What happened next surprised me. The dental schools and dental offices continued to call me for seminar updates. When I told them that the company had discontinued the program, they said, “That’s okay, we will pay, you were so good, and we really learned a lot that helped us improve our infection control.” I was honored. I never dreamed of being a consultant or speaker and now the opportunity was offered to me and I wanted to provide accurate information and meet expectations.
When I told the sales representative about the invitations to speak again, she gave me the best advice, “Jackie, if you are serious about being a consultant, you need to go to an OSAP meeting.” OSAP is the Organization for Safety Asepsis and Prevention, and they advocate for safe and infection-free delivery of oral healthcare. They also provide education for the dental team. So, I joined the organization and registered for their annual conference in Denver. It was a big financial commitment for me at the time to buy airfare from Atlanta to Denver and pay for a hotel room. But it was the best investment I ever made. I was in awe at the OSAP conference, hearing presentations from all the leading infection prevention speakers—authors of articles I had read and names included in research papers. I even got to meet them during the conference breaks and social events. It was the beginning of lifetime friendships and networking with like-minded professionals. I have not missed an OSAP conference in 30 years.
From HIV to SARs-CoV-2, OSAP membership provides me the latest resources and resources on dental infection prevention and safety.
OP: Practices around the country have been reaching out to you during the pandemic. What does your job entail?
Dorst: I’ve been really busy answering orthodontists’ questions about the changing guidance from OSHA and CDC. Lots of phone calls, text messages, and emails. And I’m happy to help. This is when I realized there is a need for more orthodontic infection control consultants!
Since orthodontic treatment is different from dental treatment in many ways, orthodontists contact me for clarification on implementing the airborne disease precautions in their orthodontic practices. I’ve had to do a lot of research on aerosol mitigation—a new area of infection control for the dental profession. HVAC systems are a whole new infection control risk with COVID-19.
Pre-pandemic, my consulting services were divided into three categories – speaking, in-office consultation on OSHA, and infection control and instrument sterilization consultation. I speak at professional meetings and seminars sponsored by orthodontists for their referring practices. An in-office consultation is normally 2 days and includes checklists for compliance, OSHA coordinator coaching, team training, and a customized computer training module. The instrument sterilization consultation is three stages and includes instruments, ortho kits, equipment, cabinet design, and sterilization room design.
During the pandemic, everything has gone virtual. Webinars have replaced live seminars. There has been a fire hose of information from CDC, OSHA, FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration), and the state dental boards. Orthodontists want to know how the guidance can be managed in an open bay orthodontic practice. There have been some big challenges for orthodontic teams to comply with the COVID-19 transmission prevention. I add new published guidance to my webinars and on-line postings daily, and weekly I do the Orthodontic Products video series In the Sterilization Room with Jackie which is a big help for updating orthodontic teams about all the changing guidance.
With the pandemic, the AAO (American Association of Orthodontists) asked me to provide webinars to its membership; and since the March 16 closure, all the way through to the December 1 annual OSHA update webinar, I’ve been working with the AAO to provide the latest information. I’ve also participated in the AAO COVID-19 Task Force which updates and provides resources for AAO members during the pandemic.
In June, I was invited by OSAP and Dentaquest to contribute to the Best Practices for Infection Control in Dental Clinics During the COVID19 Pandemic. This free booklet combines all the guidance from OSHA, CDC, ADA (American Dental Association), and ADHA (American Dental Hygienists’ Association) in one easy to use checklist format. It is updated as the guidance changes.
Needless to say, it’s been a busy 9 months—but incredibly interesting and fulfilling.
OP: For orthodontic team members looking for that next step in the orthodontic profession, would their background make them an ideal candidate to pursue such a career path?
Dorst: Yes! There is a need for knowledgeable orthodontic infection prevention and OSHA coordinators and consultants. One of these days I’m going to retire—not yet! In the future, I would love to see a whole line of orthodontic safety consultants ready to follow in my footsteps. There is a big need for in-office consultations. Many orthodontic practices would like to have a consultant come to their practice and go through a checklist that all is correct for OSHA and infection prevention, and provide recommendations on needed improvements.
OP: What kind of training does someone need to pursue this career path? Where do they get started?
Dorst: Orthodontic team members who are passionate about infection prevention, sterilization, and OSHA safety should consider investing in their professional growth. The best place to learn is OSAP. Through OSAP, orthodontic team members can earn a Certification in Dental Infection Prevention and Control (CDIPC). Attending the OSAP Bootcamp is the first step in the Certification process.
OP: You are sponsoring an Orthodontic Sparkle & Shine! Scholarship to the upcoming virtual OSAP Dental Infection Control Boot Camp to help an orthodontic team member get started on this career path. Why are you sponsoring this scholarship now?
Dorst: With all the questions that I received and anxious calls from orthodontic team members during the pandemic, I realized there are a limited number of knowledgeable orthodontic infection control consultants. Even some of the general dental consultants call me on orthodontic related questions. That’s why I’m offering a Sparkle & Shine! Scholarship for an orthodontic team member to the January 25 to 28, 2021 Virtual OSAP Bootcamp. I invite all interested orthodontic team members to apply. It’s easy! Apply by January 6, 2021. I would love to put Sparkle & Shine in the scholarship winner’s orthodontic career. And hopefully inspire several future orthodontic infection control consultants. OP
The winner of the Sparkle & Shine! Scholarship to attend the OSAP Virtual Booth Camp January 25 to 28, 2021, will be notified on January 12. The winner will be announced on the January 13 episode of In the Sterilization Room with Jackie.
For more information and the scholarship application, visit http://ow.ly/j3wi50CH5J0.