Factors Influencing the Professional Identity of Student and Licensed Professional Members of the American Dental Hygienists' Association

J Dent Hyg. 2022 Oct;96(5):52-61.


Purpose: Professional identity formation is positively influenced by roles models, mentors, and experiential learning. The purpose of this study was to investigate the role membership in the American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) plays in developing and sustaining professional identity, and to explore whether differences exist between how students and licensed professionals perceive this role.Methods: A 48-item survey consisting of multiple choice, Likert scale, and open-ended items was created, and pilot tested before dissemination to student (SM) and licensed professional members (LM) of the ADHA via an electronic survey platform. Descriptive and inferential statistics were used to analyze the data.Results: Of the 31,479 surveys sent to ADHA members in the database, 1,983 were completed, for a response rate of 6.3%. Most respondents were licensed professionals (86%, n=1,699), female (98%, n=1,940) and White (84%, n=1,668). Over one-third were over 55 years of age (37%, n=727). Continuing Education and Evidence-based Research resources were identified as positively affecting professional identity (4.0 or higher means). Advocacy efforts, the Journal of Dental Hygiene, and Access Magazine had a significantly greater positive influence on LMs professional identity (p<0.05) while SMs reported patient care resources and career support had a greater influence on their professional identity (p< 0.05).Conclusion: Member benefits in the ADHA positively influence the professional identities of students and licensed professionals. Dental hygiene students most value benefits that will support their roles as future health care professionals, while licensed professionals identified evidence-based resources and advocacy efforts as instrumental in sustaining their professional identity.

Keywords: dental hygiene education; dental hygienists; professional development; professional identity; professionalism.

MeSH terms

  • American Dental Association
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Dental Hygienists* / education
  • Education, Dental, Continuing
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Mentors
  • Professionalism
  • Students*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires
  • United States