Purpose: To assess the perceptions and attitudes of dental hygiene (DH) educators at selected colleges and universities regarding the establishment of doctoral educational programs in DH in the United States.Methods: An online survey of DH educators at the 58 U.S. schools offering baccalaureate or master's degree programs was used to assess participants' perceptions and attitudes regarding the following: need to establish doctoral programs in DH, interests in supporting their development, potential barriers and facilitators, and goals/motivators of potential enrollees. Percentages of respondents selecting each response were calculated for each survey item and responses of selected items analyzed for significant differences.Results: Of 608 potential participants, 203 completed the survey for a 33% response rate. More than half the respondents strongly agreed and a quarter more agreed that a DH doctoral program was needed to relate equitably with doctoral graduates of other health-related disciplines and to expand the DH body of knowledge by conducting discipline-specific research. A majority indicated likely interest in supporting the development of both clinically oriented and research-based doctoral programs. Significantly (p<0.01) more respondents with doctorates were interested in developing doctoral programs than those with a master's degree as their terminal degree. Respondents identified shortages of qualified educators and interested enrollees as primary barriers. Facilitators included support from the American Dental Education Association and the American Dental Hygienists' Association. Becoming a better researcher and an institutional administrator were perceived as chief motivations.Conclusion: The majority of DH educators perceived that doctoral educational programs in DH are needed to advance the DH profession.
Keywords: dental and dental hygiene workforce models; dental hygiene; doctoral education in dental hygiene; educational concepts and theory; faculty development; professional development/team building.
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