Recent scientific studies show strong correlations between oral and systemic disease, creating a crucial need for increased collaboration between the medical and dental professions. Interdisciplinary collaboration between medical and dental providers is emerging as a critical component to effective patient care. The role of the dental hygienist in interdisciplinary collaboration has been under-utilized and understudied. The objectives of this research are to access dental hygienists' perceptions of (1) their role in interdisciplinary collaboration, (2) the barriers to effective collaboration, and (3) communication skills needed to better participate in interdisciplinary collaboration.
Data were gathered using a quantitative survey instrument. Variables measured regarding the dental hygienist's role included experience, confidence, importance, leadership, knowledge utilization, and the future of interdisciplinary collaboration. Participants consisted of a volunteer sample of Oregon dental hygienists (N=103), recruited from two large dental hygiene meetings. The overall response rate was 60%. To better understand the nature of relationships between variables, and to make comparisons among groups, statistical analyses included correlation and comparison analysis.
Results show that dental hygienists perceive their role in interdisciplinary collaboration as valuable, both now and in the future. Barriers to collaboration include insufficient time and insufficient knowledge of medical diseases. Speaking, listening and leadership skills are necessary to effectively participate in interdisciplinary collaboration. Analyses of these findings elucidate a call for greater education in communication skills. The results of this study will be used to develop skill-building interventions to train dental hygienists in effective interdisciplinary collaboration.
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