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In the past, tackling work-based questions, improving my clinical practice, evaluating research and putting this new knowledge to the test were someone else's job. That's fine to a point. However, what do they really know about the uniqueness of my clients, our practice and team? This is where Action Research can make the difference. It doesn't have to be complex or overly academic, as long as it is educational and learning is derived from it. The research findings may or may not change your clinical approach or direction; that, in my opinion, is what counts professionally and is empowering.

So, what have I done and continue to do with Action Research you may rightly ask. My first project after graduation looked at the use of Airflow air polishing. It was a collaboration with my clients and included their feedback on acceptance and pricing. Putting it into an Action Research question might be: How will my introduction of Airflow air polishing be received by my clients? This research demonstrated that the benefit of using air polishing far outweighed the initial cost to the practice and client acceptance was high. These results surprised me greatly, but I then incorporated air polishing into my practice.

Next I questioned the efficacy of my oral health message to clients and whether I could improve it. The outcome of this Action Research changed my practice. I simplified the message and saw a 33% overall improvement in oral health. It has also made me massively oral health focused and less "instrumental".

Last year I undertook a research project that challenged my present work practice and asked whether I could afford to employ an assistant to make me more productive. The results turned out to be very satisfying as I reduced a five-week waiting list to two weeks. I also demonstrated to the practice owner that it is a viable option for him to employ an assistant for me in the future. It also allowed me to focus on oral health promotion as many of the tasks involved in client turnaround were performed by my new assistant (my daughter Naomi).

Currently, I am in the research phase of determining whether I need a more whole"istic" approach to my practice to help reduce dental disease risk and improve general health and well-being among my clients. This will also be a collaborative effort with clients and I envisage seeing significant changes in my approach to oral health promotion as well as changes to my own well-being. Action Research is very much a win, win proposition.

I am hoping this new learning will dominate my future practice and be part of my next project of setting up an online store and community focusing on my whole practice philosophy. Learning is just a journey, not a destination and I would strongly recommend Action Research to dental health professionals who are keen to not only make a positive difference to their practice, but for themselves as well.

Finally, I feel that Action Research will also change your clinical thought processes as well as what you do in your workplace. It encompasses both quantitative and qualitative research methods, whichever way you want it. It can be collaborative and may even turn you into a critical writer. Ultimately it transforms you from an everyday clinician to a "first person" (I) "reflective" (investigative), "collaborative" (with others) workplace research practitioner. Cool eh?

Good luck and Kia ora.

Mark