Characterization of Tasks and Time Efficiency of Dental Hygiene Students During Clinical Training

J Dent Hyg. 2020 Oct;94(5):30-37.
  • PMID: 33008947
  • PMCID: PMC7534457 (available on )


Purpose: Dental hygiene graduates often experience significant psychological stress while transitioning from the educational setting to clinical practice environments. The purpose of this study was to characterize the duration of dental hygiene activities and tasks and explore efficiency within appointments, by students in educational programs.Methods: Right-handed female dental hygiene students were recruited from two dental hygiene education programs. Each participant was video recorded while providing patient care during 3 sessions, once per term, over 3 consecutive terms. Activities, tasks, and student postures and positions were coded across the patient visit. Descriptive analyses were conducted to characterize overall durations and distributions across each category. Time spent on non-dental hygiene related activities was compared to other durations, as well as across the education/training time points and by patient type.Results: Fifty-three videos were analyzed from nineteen participants. The average patient visit length was 155.06 ± 35.63 minutes; approximately half the visit was dedicated to instrumentation activities. Nearly 20% of the visit was categorized as activities or tasks unrelated to education or patient care. Although most participants completed the patient visit more quickly by the third time point, the percentage of non-dental hygiene activities did not decrease, and there were no associations between patient category type and the duration of the patient visit.Conclusion: Patient visits were roughly three times the length of the typical dental hygiene care appointment, indicating a disconnect between training and practice. In addition to spending more time on hand scaling tasks, participants spent a lot of time on equipment setup and interacting with or waiting for faculty members. These findings have implications for improving efficiency in educational settings, particularly to facilitate a successful transition to clinical practice.

Keywords: clinical education; dental hygiene students; ergonomics; task analysis.

MeSH terms

  • Appointments and Schedules
  • Dental Hygienists*
  • Faculty
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Oral Hygiene*
  • Students