By Ms. Brittany Carlson (IMCOM)December 13, 2010
STUTTGART, Germany -- Finding a job is tough for military family members overseas. But, with the American Red Cross/ Europe Regional Dental Command Dental Assistant Apprenticeship Program, it doesn't have to be like pulling teeth.
Military ID cardholders ages 18 and up seeking work in U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart - and in the greater dental community - can apply for the free course, offered through the ARC and Patch Dental Clinic.
Students will learn the dental assistant's job, which includes prepping dental instruments for the doctor, taking X-rays and charting patients' teeth - a career that averages a salary of $27,000 in the U.S. and has a great outlook, according to Patch Dental Clinic Commander Dr. (Col.) Julio Gonzales.
They'll also be among the first considered for hire at the clinic when new positions become available, Gonzales said.
"It's sort of a dual benefit," he said. "If we have a shortage of assistants, we can hire from that pool."
The course can cost thousands of dollars in the States, but is free to community members here because graduates aid the clinic in its mission: to provide timely and efficient care to service members, he added.
In the past two years, the clinic has hired four dental assistants through the ARC program, according to Sgt. 1st Class Michael Cordova, noncommissioned officer-in-charge for the dental clinic.
One of these assistants is Hikari Sutton, who graduated from the program last year.
"It's great to be able to actually have a kind of outlet - something to actually get into [the] work[force]," she said.
The course begins around November each year and includes 80 hours of classroom lessons, followed by 200 hours of practical work at the dental clinic.
Students must complete the 200 hours within a few months to earn their certificate of training.
"With the time frame ... everything's still fresh in their mind[s]," Cordova said. In addition, "It gives us time to have people programmed in. When we have PCS season, we'll have people hired."
In the classroom portion, Patch dentists teach lessons on the anatomy of a human mouth, the 31 different dental tools used, and how to spot and treat cavities, among other subjects. During the clinical portion of training, students assist dentists in a variety of procedures, under supervision.
"It can be challenging," said Amy Murray, an Army spouse in the program. However, it's worth gaining a portable career, she added: "You can move with it."
All dental assistants hired by the Patch Dental Clinic become certified in radiology as part of their position. Additionally, those who work 3,500 hours or more at the clinic may be able to have their online Certified Dental Assistant exam paid for the by Europe Region Dental Command.
To apply for the dental assistant program, family members first fill out an application at the Red Cross Office, then go through an interview process with an assistant, an NCO and the clinic commander.
"The main thing I'm looking for is if they care about people, if they'd like to help people," Gonzales said.
If they have that, he believes they'll go a long way in the field of dental health.