With 1000’s of temping shifts completed through TempStars since dental offices reopened, we wanted to dig in and find out how things are really going for our members post-COVID. In this series of interviews, we chatted one-on-one (virtually!) with some of our dental hygienist, dental assistant, and dentist members to hear about their real experiences returning to work in the “new norm”.

In this interview, read our discussion with one of our Hygienist members, Lin Choo, as she shares her experiences returning to temping work.

TempStars (Ashley): Tell me a little bit about yourself and what you do.

Lin Choo: I have been in dental for almost 25 years, but not as a hygienist. In the office [at the] front desk – booking the hygiene appointments and hiring the hygienists, which is why…I went back to school and said ‘I’m going to do this’. I have a biology and chemistry degree, why don’t I go back and hire myself?

TS: How did you get into dental temping?

LC: I came to temping because I know I have that personality – I can talk to anybody. That’s what you need, you need that personality that can talk to anybody even though you’ve never seen them before. You need that. And if you don’t have that personality, you need to personify that personality. I can walk that role; I can be in that shoe. So that’s why I made that change from front desk to hygiene to temporary… I like to call myself a professional temp. Cause you are professional, you still have to stay professional…people think that a temp wants to be a temp because they don’t want to take responsibility… I hear that all the time, you know ‘you get to be a temp, you walk away from this tomorrow’. Yeah, you could be, but if you want to come back to that office, you better make sure you’ve left it nicely so that you can come back.

TS: How long have you been a member of TempStars?

LC: Just two years. I’ve had a great time.

TS: How long have you been temping in total?

LC: On and off. I already had a full-time job. And when I was off I was glad to be in sort of my own space, and my own favourite patients and all that. So you know, it can get too comfy. You don’t realize you’re in a comfort zone. You go in there, you know where all your things are, you open the drawers and find my stuff. But when you are temping, you are on your toes all the time. I think I did realize that I could like that, and it’s important. Suddenly, you’re at attention all the time – from the moment you walk in to the time that you finally send that invoice to the office, when you can finally say ‘okay I can let down my guard’. It keeps you a little bit up on your game so that you’re always performing at top notch. When you get comfy…too complacent….you lose that complacency [in temping] because you really need to be alert. Everyone needs to get out of permanent work sometimes. Change is good, change is necessary if you want to change yourself.

“Change is good, change is necessary if you want to change yourself.”

-Lin Choo

TS: How does temping allow you to shape your life around everything that you have going on?

LC: That’s exactly what has really drawn me into temping; the fact that I can re-plug in all the other parts of my life so conveniently. I even take yoga temping shifts, which is plentiful too, because I work for the biggest fitness facility in Canada, Goodlife Fitness, it allows me to temp also and help them. You know, when we think of ‘temp’ we think of it as a job, but always remember that you’re helping somebody out. That gratitude is what I feed off of, when I leave and they’re just full of love, [saying] ‘thank you for coming, our members felt good, our patients felt good’…that’s the payback. You did help them, don’t forget that, always. If you ever start to feel like you’re being taken for granted at work, when you go out temping, you’ll feel the love all the time hopefully. And I am going to say I enjoy it…it [may be] egotistical, but I love it.

TS: That’s great, it makes you feel good about yourself and your profession.

LC: Yeah! If you start to feel you’re being taken for granted, [temping] is the way to feel good.

TS: Diving into the post-COVID realm, we know there are still a few members who are hesitant to return to the dental office. What helped you decide to return to work?

LC: I was there too. I was one of them. Do I want to leave the comfort of my children and go out there and expose myself? No. Plus, I have an elderly mom that I was trying to help look after, but I’ve been distancing from her since COVID because we are in this job… But, I started off with a job in the Job Board… They wanted a short-term person until their hygienist was ready to come back. So, for the first month I took that job and I saw how much they had done. It was an amazing job…I felt so comfy and their patients were so confident about coming back and happy and grateful to have a chance to have some grooming and some normalcy back into life. I said, okay, it’s time to try out another office – so I opened myself up to temping positions by mid-July. I’ve seen the gamut of the most compliant office to offices that are just waiting for rules to change again. It’s sad for those guys, but I have been at offices where they’re not prepared to do much to change anything.

TS: In your temping shifts with TempStars, what has your experience been with offices and PPE compliance?

LC: I’m going to say…everyone is pretty compliant with the PPE, more or less. There have been times when I have been asked to reuse a visor and wasn’t thrilled about that, but in general everybody’s been great. Scooting from one room to the next without having an assistant to help clean up…can be stressful. There are offices that didn’t really follow the appropriate fallow time. It’s not a very common thing… Most offices should [also] know a temp doesn’t have a fitted N95 mask, so [they shouldn’t] expect aerosol generating procedures when there isn’t a fitted mask.

AD: What makes you walk into an office now, post-COVID, and feel safe?

LC: [The offices] that are so concerned that you as an employee feel safe, and that their patients feel safe. Not the façade of safety. There is façade of safety, I’ve seen it out there. Definitely, for sure when the front door is locked…If you have a runner, I know you care that the office runs with as [little] stress as possible…The offices that are willing to pay to fix up all this to make sure everybody is safe, and putting almost permanent measures, willing to call this a new norm, not a temporary norm. Those offices, I’m back there if I can. The ones that I’ve felt like they care about me and their patients, I’ve gone back.

The messaging system has been great that Dr. Younger has put in the last six months because there was no other way to reach out to an office. I’ve been able to contact them right away, immediately.

“Great points have outweighed negative points. I can’t say for a minute that I would ever change back and go back to an office and work full time permanently.”

-Lin Choo

TS: Do you have any advice to offer any other hygienist out there who might still be hesitant to return to work?

LC: An open mind because every office is different. I have not come across an office and another office being identical. The variance in their philosophy in how they approach COVID… it’s up to them, and they’ve taken it to varying degrees.

Dr. Younger reached out to me in the early part of July to see if I was temping again, and I was too worried. But within a week, all that changed and the new release of the updated app made all the difference in the world.

TS: I’m glad to hear that!

LC: Oh, yeah, absolutely. There’s no other agency out there that has as much information as this one does.

TS: Do you have any last thoughts on your post-COVID experience?

LC: I’ve been happy, it’s been great. I’m grateful to be doing this job. I love it. Great points have outweighed negative points. I can’t say for a minute that I would ever change back and go back to an office and work full time permanently. I love temping, I love the unknown still.

Editor’s Note:  Thank you, Lin!  And for our readers, if you’d like to read an interesting perspective on the risks of COVID transmission in a dental setting, check out our article Is the Risk of COVID in Dental Offices Less Than 1 in 3,000,000