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Are dental hygienists prepared to work in the changing public health environment?

Are dental hygienists prepared to work in the changing public health environment?

Journal of Evidence-Based Dental Practice 14 Suppl: 183-190

Health care reform, the changing public health environment, and a lack of clarity about what defines a 'public health professional' create challenges as well as opportunities for dental hygienists who wish to pursue positions or careers in public health. Although many studies have been conducted about dental hygienists in clinical practice, there are few describing dental hygienists working in public health positions, particularly in non-clinical roles, or how well their education and other resources prepared them for these roles. Competency statements and the 10 Essential Public Health Services to Promote Oral Health in the U.S. provide a public health framework to assess what skills will be required for future opportunities that may emerge for dental hygienists. Published literature, recent unpublished survey data, selected professional health care reform documents, competency statements, accreditation standards, and the 10 Essential Public Health Services to Promote Oral Health in the U.S. were analyzed. Competencies in public health/dental public health provide an overview of skills needed by dental hygienists who will be seeking public health positions. Health reform statements describe the need for more leadership and workforce models in public health, while the 10 Essential Services can serve as a framework for career preparation/transition. The literature does not provide a comprehensive historical review or current profile of dental hygienists who work in various public health positions or their various roles, especially non-clinical roles. More research is needed regarding current positions, degree and experience requirements, and role responsibilities. Additionally, the credentials and public health background of the faculty teaching community/public health courses in dental hygiene programs requires exploration. Follow-up studies of dental hygiene program graduates could help determine how well courses prepare students for public health activities or careers and what resources aid in transitioning from clinical to public health positions. Dental hygienists need more information about education, continuing education and employment opportunities related to pursuing a career in public health.

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Accession: 051626865

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PMID: 24929603

DOI: 10.1016/j.jebdp.2014.03.007

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