Cultivating professional responsibility in a dental hygiene curriculum

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To prepare dental hygienists for future roles in the health care system, dental hygiene education must prepare graduates with skills, ethics, and values that align with professional responsibility. The objective of this study was to determine the effectiveness of curricular changes designed to develop professional identity and responsibility over the entire span of the dental hygiene curriculum. Twenty-four dental hygiene students at the University of Minnesota were surveyed about their attitudes toward access to dental care, society's and health professionals' responsibility to care for the underserved, and their personal efficacy to provide care for the underserved. Surveys were conducted at three time points in the curriculum. The Attitudes Toward Health Care instrument adapted by Holtzman for dental use was used to survey the students. The findings indicate that this institution's curricular changes were effective in cultivating professional responsibility among these students. Their attitude scores increased across the six-semester curriculum, and students in their last semester of the program believed that all individuals have a right to dental care and that society has an obligation to provide dental care. These students' sense of obligation to care for the needy became stronger and their perceptions of their own ability to impact the community and act as an agent of change also increased.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1042-1051
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 1 2013


  • Access to oral health care
  • Dental hygiene
  • Dental hygiene education
  • Professional identity
  • Professional responsibility
  • Professionalism


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