A study of Maryland dental hygienists' perceptions regarding self-assessment

J L Fried, L DeVore, J Dailey
Journal of Dental Hygiene: JDH 2001, 75 (2): 121-9

PURPOSE: This research applied the Theory of Reasoned Action to study dental hygienists' perceptions about self-assessment (SA). This theory suggests that individuals are likely to exhibit a given behavior, i.e., self-assessment, when they view it positively and when they believe that important others think they should perform it. Using the Theory of Reasoned Action model, the study addressed the following research questions: What are dental hygienists' beliefs, attitudes, motivations, and intentions regarding SA? Respondents were asked if they actually self-assess when providing dental hygiene services and if they felt they had adequate time to do so. The study also examined correlations between socio-demographic variables (i.e., initial year of licensure, educational level, practice characteristics, and professional membership) and self-assessment intention and behavior.

METHODS: A self-administered survey was mailed to 200 dental hygienists randomly selected from a list of all currently licensed dental hygienists in Maryland. Data analysis included descriptive statistics, correlations to predict intention and behavior, and analyses of differences related to socio-demographic variables.

RESULTS: A total of 119 usable surveys were returned after one mailing, achieving a 59.5% response rate. The demographic data indicated that the respondents were a representative sample, with 66% holding associate degrees, 30% baccalaureate degrees, and 3% masters' degrees. Respondents' attitudes toward SA and intention to perform SA were strongly positive (X = 2.7, 2.6 respectively, on a Likert Scale ranging from -3 to +3) and, as the Theory of Reasoned Action suggests, attitude was strongly associated with intention (r = .6673). However, in contrast to the Theory, intention was weakly associated with behavior (r = .3721). Only one socio-demographic variable correlated with SA intention or self-reported behavior. Subjects who worked 20 hours per week or more were significantly more likely to self-assess when providing dental hygiene care than those who worked less than 20 hours per week (p < .01, .0089). A majority of respondents (76%) reported that they consistently perform SA and felt they had adequate time to do so. Respondents seemed to be motivated by perceived benefits of SA rather than by social pressure to perform it.

CONCLUSION: Dental hygienists in this study appear to value self-assessment, use it when they provide patient care, and believe they have the time to do it. The extent and scope of their SA behaviors were not investigated. As SA is an integral component of quality assurance, application of well-developed self-assessment strategies in both educational and practice settings may benefit both dental hygienists and the public they serve.

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