Breaking Barriers and Reaching Goals: A How To

Breaking Barriers and Reaching Goals: A How To

“Being a dental hygiene student is hard enough, but being a dental hygiene student with learning disabilities is even harder. “
🦷 Who Am I?

My name is Nicole Newkirk and I am a student at the University of Louisville School of Dentistry. Becoming a dental hygienist has always been my dream, for as long as I can remember. Sure, there were other options and careers that sparked my interest, but I always somehow came back to dental hygiene.

For a long time, I struggled with my dream. I didn’t believe I would be good enough to become one of thirty accepted into the program when the time came. This wasn’t because I doubted myself as a health care provider or a dedicated student, but because I had barriers others did not.

🦷 The Barriers

My entire life I have struggled with Dyslexia, ADHD, and Dyscalculia. I have always had a hard time in school. I have difficulty paying attention for long periods of time, I have never been able to do basic addition or subtraction in my head, and spelling has never been my strong suit. My entire life I watched my peers grasp concepts easier and faster than me, and I usually fell at the bottom of the class in terms of performance.

I knew that when applying, there would be better candidates than me academically. But I was determined to give it my all no matter what stood in my way. I spent nights in the library while others were at parties or with friends. I spent breaks at home shadowing at local dental offices to gain experience. I climbed my way up position-wise in my sorority to fatten my application and improve my leadership abilities.

🦷 Focus!

At the time, I felt nervous that what I was doing wouldn’t be enough for my dream, and I also felt frustrated that I was missing out on fun events and memories. I always repeated to myself that it would all be worth it when I got the letter of acceptance I had always dreamed of. When you really want something, your passion will drive you to succeed, no matter how many barriers you have to break. Your journey may be longer than others, or it may be shorter. What I have learned is that regardless of how long your path may seem, persistence will always carry you to the end.

I know from my classmates that dental hygiene students are some of the most persistent people you will ever meet. We have all seen one another cry or have an outburst of stress, but yet we all keep persisting.

“I hope that by writing this article for StudentRDH, I inspire those of you who may be on the long road right now. “

What I adore about dental hygiene, is the community that we hold as hygienists. The schooling is rigorous, and the clinical work can be trying, yet we all maintain the passion we share with one another in our work. This profession is so special. Not only did all of us earn the spot to be a part of the dental community, but we also continually change lives. Although we only work with one part of the body, a smile can define a person.

“To those who are beginning to apply to the dental hygiene program of your choice: do not compare your journey to others. “

In the end, we all come together as a beautiful community of do-gooders who share a common passion and goal. We all have our own individual strengths, stories, and struggles that make us unique as health care providers. When applying or studying, it is easy to get lost in the difficulty and stress each challenge provides. Something I have learned is that the best successes don’t always come easy. That’s what makes them so rewarding.

When I think back on the little girl who cried in the bathtub when she found out she couldn’t learn like the other students, I wonder what she would think if she knew she was one of thirty students accepted. She’d probably laugh, probably say “yeah, right” or something along the lines of that. But that girl persisted with her dream, because in the end, you work for what you want, no matter how many trials may stand in your way.

🦷 Never Give Up!

Do not become discouraged at the small failures along the way, they help us grow. And do not compare your journey to another’s, we all find our own way to the same goal. Never stop working for your dream and never doubt your potential. We all bring our own unique spark to the profession that is dental hygiene. I wish nothing but success and growth to my fellow students across the country, and those applying in the future.

No matter the steps you may have to take, you will reach your goal with determination and persistence. And I know this because our community reflects determination like no other I have seen. I am so honored to be a part of it, even on the hardest days, and even on the days when I doubt myself.

🦷 Message to other aspiring dental hygiene students:

May you find success, growth, and happiness along the hard journey ahead, no matter where you may find yourself on it. If you can dream it, you can do it.

Written by:

Nicole Newkirk, RDH, – University of Louisville


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The goal is #SuccessAndNothingLess.

(Disclaimer: StudentRDH is NOT affiliated with the NBDHE, NDHCE, CSCE, CDCA, WREB.)

Written by
Nicole Newkirk

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