My initial interest in dentistry/dental hygiene started after I had received my RN at the age of 20. Back then, nursing consisted of weekends and nights and I didn’t want to work like that the rest of my life. I was contemplating getting a BS-possibly in something else. My brother-in-law at the time suggested hygiene-good hours and pay. At that point, I had never had my teeth cleaned before-even after begging my parents to take me to our 2nd cousin who was a DDS in town. I grew up scrubbing my enamel away, and water-picking just to do everything I could to keep my teeth clean. (My father, who was an MD-thought he could “see” all the cavities, so didn’t need to go to the dentist-what do you do when you are 12?)

If I was going to do hygiene-I only wanted to go to Loma Linda University or not at all. I was accepted and during the 2 years there worked nursing also. I was very fortunate to be able to go on the school’s mission trip between my Jr & Sr year where I did extractions, carved amalgams and practiced injections that I wouldn’t think of doing in the states. Every one of my classmates wanted to go. There was one spot and I secured that spot by telling the committee they needed an RN on the trip in case something happened!!!!

Sunie won Article of the Year by the American Association of Legal Nurse Consultants

I came back from that mission trip so inspired by all that I saw and treated I wanted to take oral surgery. I calculated how many years that would take (10 plus) and realized I could get my fill of helping people by just going on mission trips instead of investing 10 years more of school.

When I took hygiene, not knowing anything about it, I told myself if I didn’t like it I would continue to do nursing. I loved both. So, when I graduated, I worked two hospital jobs and two dental hygiene jobs for almost 20 years.

When the hospital situation got bad in the mid 1990’s, having 12 patients to take care of in a 12-hour shift, and not able to do my best, I stopped doing nursing for a couple of years and continued doing hygiene. Then when my marital situation changed and I needed more hygiene work-there was none: too many hygienists being turned out of 2 year programs. As I would say, “Hygiene schools are more prolific than gas stations-there is one on every corner”.

So luckily, I had my RN degree to turn back on. Some of the jobs were not too lucrative or what I wanted to do the rest of my life (Flu RN, corrections-think suicide watches!!!!) But then, I decided to read old RN journals. Yes, didn’t make sense-but I kept seeing this ad of becoming a Legal Nurse Consultant repeatedly. I had done a lot of my own research for my divorce proceeding, so I ran this by my attorney and she said, “You would be awesome at this”. I embarked on the course, passed the certification, and plunged in head first to this exciting career. It is like Nancy Drew sleuthing through medical records!!!!!

I have found my passion!!!!

While I continue to do hygiene 1-2 days/wk., legal nurse consulting has given me my destiny to be all I can be. Starting out on my career early on, I concentrated on medical issues. When I was handed a dental case to screen for merit, I realized I can turn this into a specialty. Now I review dental cases, write up summary’s and do Dental Life Care Plans. I don’t think there is any legal nurse consultant who has 37 years of dental knowledge!

And the best is yet to come:

I was the Dental Coordinator for our church’s mission trip to the Dominican Republic in December 2016 & I was able to perform my love of oral surgery and some restorative.

In 2014 sunie came in 10th in the Senior World Championships in her age division.

What I do know is that I want to continue helping others and I want to give back what God has given me.

Sunie’s Article

SOURCEAll Images: Courtesy of Sunie Keller
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Sunie Keller is a practicing dental hygienist, legal nurse consultant and health coach. Since becoming a RN 42 yrs ago, she has worked in a variety of settings including CCU/ICU, Urgent Care, Oncology, Med-Surg and Corrections. 39 yrs ago she completed her BS in dental hygiene and continues to work all three. When she is not with patients or a client, she enjoys playing the violin with the Auburn Symphony and competing in water-ski tournaments. In 2014 she came in 10th in the Senior World Championships in her age division.