Suzanne Mann has been a dental hygienist for 45 years. She has licenses in Wisconsin, Colorado and Hawaii. Suzanne and her husband Charles moved to Payson, Illinois seven years ago. About a year ago Suzanne applied for a license in Illinois. She saw three ads in the local newspaper from dental offices looking for a hygienist. The Illinois dental board told her that she could not have a dental hygiene license because she had not worked 36 months out of 60 months. She went to Springfield to talk to the dental board.
“I drove 180 miles round trip dressed to the professional nines. They told me I could not have a hygiene license.” Suzanne said. “What? I am not leaving here without my license.” Suzanne told them.
Recently she received a letter stating that she had 30 days to appeal it with an attorney but not to contact the board anymore. “I can’t pull together the 36 months out of 60 between Colorado and Wisconsin. They are willing to let a newbie work right away out of school” Suzanne stated.
"My last gig was a 14 week fill in South Fork, Colorado. It was July through October. Last winter my husband was sick and I did not work the winter of 2009. Prior to that I filled in for eight months in Denver. I have worked in 60 dental offices over the years" Suzanne said.
“I got about four or five letters that the dentists had sent to the board for me” She had asked the board about them. “It was nice because it was like having your eulogy read before you are dead. I read them and thought oh my gosh they thought I was really good. I asked six dentists that were my favorites to write these letters. “ Suzanne said.
“I usually get a job in October in Colorado. We may go up to Wisconsin next week” Suzanne stated.
Suzanne’s husband owned Charlie's Drive-In for 40 years. Her kids run it now. It is in Hortonville, Wisconsin. “My daughter pays me 10 dollars an hour and my boss in Colorado is paying me 42 dollars an hour” The drive in has car hops and classic car nights. They had a hearse club come one night. “Dead Elvis was waiting on them.” Suzanne said. Her son dresses up as Elvis for customers for special events. “My son looks so authentic. He doesn‘t shave his sideburns anymore” she said.
She talked about how people really love the drive in. “Some people have tears coming down their face when they see the car hops and the drive in. It brings back memories for them” she stated.
Suzanne discussed why she chose dental hygiene. “ I couldn’t have fallen into a better job. When you are temping you meet new interesting patients all the time. I graduated in a day when you were either a teacher or a nurse. Teaching just didn’t appeal to me. At the time I thought I wanted to go into the military. The high school counselor said only women with loose morals go into the military. I was a squeaky clean Catholic girl. Anything that would look like I was a loose Catholic girl would have kept me out of the military” she said.
Suzanne thinks something needs to be done about reciprocity between states for dental hygienists. “There is no national licensing. I think a lot of hygienists are just sitting on their hands on this” Suzanne continued. “I wasn’t going to go to the trouble of lining up a patient again. I have done that three times in Colorado, Wisconsin and Hawaii. I am 66 years old. It is hard on your body. If you have your loupes and lights and not working 40 hours a week then you will do okay”
Suzanne talked about how when she went to Marquette and graduated in 1964. She said that at the time it was the only dental hygiene school in Wisconsin. “Now of course you have two hygiene schools 40 minutes apart in Appleton and Green Bay. I think the market is saturated.” she stated.
She discussed what it takes to be a dental hygienist and how you have to have the right personality for it. “You have to love science, health and love the teaching aspect of it. If you are doing it for the dollars, what a killer of a job!” Suzanne exclaimed. “When I came out I was making two dollars and fifty cents an hour in Appleton. The big money makers were the guys in the paper mills and I thought I was doing well because I was making more money than they were. I didn’t have the benefits of course but I was young and it didn’t matter.”
One day the state of Illinois might grant Suzanne a dental hygiene license. She may have to work for 36 consecutive months in order to do that. Suzanne commented about her meeting with the Illinois officials.“The face to face was like an IRS audit where nothing mattered except those missing work months” Suzanne concluded.
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