The British Columbia Ministry of Health in Canada approved a new registration category for dental hygienists in 2012. This category included four abilities that registrants were required to demonstrate at a 4th-year baccalaureate degree level.
To identify the differences, if any, between diploma and bachelor’s degree education with regard to the 4 legislated abilities focused on the process of care for clients with complex needs and/or disabling conditions including client safety, referrals and interprofessional collaboration.
Registrants who had entered practice with a diploma and then gained a baccalaureate degree were invited to participate in an online survey including closed- and open-ended questions. The study was a mixed-method design where the qualitative data were nested concurrently in the open-ended questions; the data were analysed through thematic analysis using grounded theory methods.
Results and discussion
Respondents (n = 123; 51%) indicated their client care had improved with baccalaureate education due to increased knowledge, increased understanding and increased abilities to make judgements with a particular emphasis on evidence-based decisions. These more advanced abilities provided them with increased confidence for taking action particularly in interprofessional contexts and increased the quality of their decision-making thus leading to better care for clients.
Respondents described their dental hygiene services as generally being of a higher standard and specifically in the 4 legislated abilities as a direct result of baccalaureate education.