Recent dental hygiene school graduates face unique challenges

October 31st, 2013

Dental hygiene school software has the potential to substantially improve the quality of education students receive at academic institutions throughout the U.S. These tools may also play a significant role in eliminating many of the problems today's recent graduates face when entering the professional workforce.

A recent article from DentistryIQ, an industry publishing network, cited a survey conducted by the magazine RDH Village that measured the attitudes dental hygienists have about the current state of the economy. The report generated three common responses from individuals around the nation. For instance, many people believe dental hygiene schools are currently flooding the market with graduates, making it harder to find jobs. Others are concerned about the fact that pay rates for oral hygiene jobs are continuously decreasing. Finally, a large number of respondents also expressed frustration that many clinics are forcing their employees to work less hours.

"I only work half or less of the hours that I used to," an anonymous survey respondent, who currently holds a job as a dental hygienist in New Hampshire, stated. "The doctor does most of the (prophylaxis) himself. Therefore, due to no other hygiene opportunities, I am forced to work nights and weekends at other jobs."

The survey also revealed a significant disparity between recent graduates and more veteran dental hygienists in their desire to work more hours. Even though roughly 66 percent of people who graduated from dental programs after 2000 believe their current work schedules follow the standard industry pattern, 25 percent said they would prefer to have at least one more shift each week. However, only 20 percent of graduates from the 1980s said they would be interested in taking on more hours. The percentage was substantially lower for graduates from the 1960s.

Educational tools that pay off in the long run
Kimberly Herrmann, a registered dental hygienist, wrote an op-ed in DentistryIQ highlighting the importance of a quality education in preparing for the increasingly competitive professional workforce. In fact, she said the experiences students learn throughout their programs can have long-term impacts on success in future jobs.

"Those days spent in the lab were laid back and fun, but little did I know then what a priceless exercise this was for me," Herrmann wrote. "Daily, in my current dental hygiene duties, I am scaling a patient's teeth, with moderate subgingival calculus, moderate bleeding and a short amount of time to do my job. I always remember those teeth I carved, the intricacies of each tooth's anatomy, the curves of the furcations and the line angles. I can visualize what I'm not able to see, and therefore I'm able to be effective at removing the calculus."

Academic administrators can invest in software for dental hygiene schools to make it easier for students to gain valuable real-world experiences with new technology. Not only can advanced tools streamline the student management process and keep better track of individual performance, but integrating electronic health records technology into the classroom can prepare future graduates for a rapidly changing oral care industry.

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