To assess the role and envisioned professional identity of the dental hygienist in the eyes of their educators at the Finnish training institutes and to determine the need for any changes and improvements.
A cross-sectional explorative study used as its main method interviews conducted in 2012–2013 among educators of dental hygienists in Finland. Leading representatives of dental hygienist training at all vocational health institutes, dental schools and centres of health education were asked to participate in the study. The interviews consisted of two parts: a self-administered questionnaire and a semi-structured interview. The qualitative data were analysed with thematic analysis. The inductive theoretical approach served to categorize the data based on emergent themes and patterns.
The educators held a general respect and appreciation for the dental hygienist profession. They felt that dental hygienists’ skills ought to see more use in orthodontics and in preventive care than is customary today, including in tobacco prevention and smoking cessation as well as in dietary instruction among adults. The traditional role of the dental hygienist and the evolving scope of dental practice seemed mismatched. Concern about the lack of clarity regarding the division of labour in clinical practice was expressed. The respondents were convinced of that the division of labour in the public sector differs from that in the private sector.
The educators thought that the role of the dental hygienist and the evolving scope of dental practice were partly mismatched. A reassessment of stakeholder involvement in the development of training curricula is urgently needed.