Purpose: The objective of this study was to identity specific factors that contribute to dental hygienists remaining in the same private practice employment setting for five or more years. Working conditions, the employer and the organizational structure of the employment setting, scope of practice, and personal factors were assessed.
Methods: In 1992, a self-designed questionnaire was sent to a sample of 1,200 licensed dental hygienists. One state was randomly chosen from each of the 12 American Dental Hygienists' Association (ADHA) regions of the United States, and 100 licensed dental hygienists were randomly selected from each of these twelve states. Data were analyzed using univariate analysis (frequency distribution) and multivariate analyses (factor analyses).
Results: A 62.9% (n = 755) response rate was obtained from the 1200 questionnaires mailed. Of those dental hygienists, 14.3% (n = 108) were not practicing, and 85.7% (n = 647) were currently practicing. Nearly two-thirds (63.3%; n = 480) of the total number of respondents had been practicing five or more years in the same practice setting. Six major factors were identified by dental hygienists as reasons for remaining in one private practice setting for at least five years (1) quality/safe work environment, (2) time management for high-quality dental hygiene services, (3) effective employer office policies/procedures and personnel management, (4) employer support of professional career, (5) supportive work environment, and (6) variety in scope of practice.
Conclusions: Factors identified in this study as influential in dental hygienists' retention in private practice are similar to those identified as reasons for leaving the profession in previous attrition and reentry studies. To increase retention and job satisfaction of dental hygienists in the private practice setting, strategies for effectively working with employers should be emphasized in dental hygiene and dental curriculums and in continuing education programs.