Chicago (Oct. 2, 2014) — The “Transforming Dental Hygiene Education: Proud Past, Unlimited Future” symposium — a collaborative event convened by the American Dental Hygienists’ Association (ADHA), the Santa Fe Group, and the ADHA’s Institute for Oral Health (IOH) — took place a year ago, but continues to affect positive change for the dental hygiene profession. The 3-day forum in Chicago brought together more than 100 key stakeholders with diverse perspectives to discuss the need to transform the educational requirements and practice for the dental hygiene profession.
“Our goal for the symposium was to bring dental hygiene educators, researchers and practitioners together with leaders from other health disciplines, dental industry, government, philanthropy, and business to strategically discuss the role that the dental hygiene profession could play in improving the public’s overall health,” said ADHA Executive Director Ann Battrell, MSDH. “We gained a wealth of information from the participants. The outcomes from the symposium highlighted the need for change in dental hygiene education, and the need for dental hygienists to be integrated into the overall health care delivery system to meet the changing needs of society.”
Increasing educational demands and the necessity for a widened scope of practice framed the discussion. Professionals from nursing, pharmacy, and physician assistant disciplines offered their perspectives on the process by which a profession can expand and adapt to environmental factors. These three professions underwent changes in a similar manner in years past, serving as an apt precedent for future models.
“The symposium served as a catalyst to heighten awareness of the need for dental hygiene education and practice to advance in order to better meet the needs of the public,” said ADHA Director of Education and Research Pamela Steinbach, RN, MS. “It will be the responsibility of the profession, dental hygiene educational leaders, academic institutions and the professional association to continue to drive this change.”
The Transforming Dental Hygiene Education symposium was instrumental in leading change on many fronts. The ADHA Board of Trustees undertook the process of strategic planning immediately following the symposium. According to ADHA President Kelli Swanson Jaecks, MA, RDH, the global perspectives and forward thinking shared during the symposium proved the need to update the ADHA’s vision and strategic plan.
“The new ADHA strategic plan changed most significantly through our core ideology and vision statement. The core ideology reflects our commitment to leading the transformation of the profession to improve the public’s oral and overall health,” said Swanson Jaecks. “Our vision is to integrate dental hygienists into the health care delivery system as essential primary care providers to expand access to oral health care. The opportunities that lie before us to profoundly transform dental hygiene are truly exciting, and afford us the chance to impact and improve both the public and our profession in ways never done before.”
The symposium fueled the long term multi-dimensional transformation of the dental hygiene profession by providing an outline for necessary steps and factors needed to advance the profession. Educational curriculum and programs will be the primary focus. Other factors such as finding the right people to engage the masses and drive change, advocating for an interprofessional educational experience for students, and establishing pilot programs within existing programs, have created a foundation upon which to revolutionize the profession.
The ADHA will continue to engage various organizations to bolster the transformation over time. Since the symposium, the ADHA partnered with the Academy for Academic Leadership (AAL) and Pamela Overman, BSDH, MS, EdD, to pilot seven dental hygiene education programs to develop new domains and competencies within their curricula. These models hold the potential for country-wide adoption and serve as a testament to the long-lasting effects the symposium is having on the profession.
Other successful outcomes include a contract with the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) for a commissioned proceedings summary, as well as the formation of a joint work group between the ADHA and the American Dental Education Association (ADEA) Commission on Change and Innovation (CCI).
“The health care system is changing rapidly in the wake of a variety of economic, demographic and legislative factors,” Battrell added. “The symposium was the catalyst for change, and it is incumbent upon us to seize the opportunity and meet the evolving needs of the public we serve.”