Identification of nontraditional dental hygienists and their educational degrees. A strategy for baccalaureate program recruitment.
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A pilot project was conducted to increase student applicant interest in a degree-completion program. Since applicants reported a preference for employment in nontraditional settings, and questioned whether further education was needed, a strategy was developed to identify dental hygienists in Michigan who were so employed, and to establish their educational levels. Through telephone interviews, nontraditional dental hygienists were asked to identify additional professionals that were known within the nontraditional network. Nontraditional employment was defined as any setting other than a private dental office, with job responsibilities not confined to patient care; dental hygiene educators were excluded. The interviews were conducted by one graduate student, one day a week, for 15 weeks. The interviewer generated a list of 44 Michigan dental hygienists employed in nontraditional job settings as defined in this study. In terms of educational levels, 23% had certificate/associate degrees (n = 10) as their highest degrees, 41% had bachelor's degrees (n = 18), and 36% had master's degrees (n = 16). Non-patient care was the job description for 93% of the nontraditional settings (n = 41). The implied need for baccalaureate and/or graduate education for nontraditional employment has positively affected recruitment for the degree-completion program. The relationship that has been established with the network of nontraditional dental hygienists has also improved recruitment efforts and enhanced the curriculum. This project suggests that the definition of nontraditional dental hygiene employment should not be limited to settings which involve patient care. Similar projects should be initiated in other states to improve interest in baccalaureate education.