I would like to reply to the two preceptors that complained they were slandered by an outsider. Well, I am not an outsider. I have "visited your state." I have the honor of saying that I earned a bachelor`s degree in dental hygiene from the University of Alabama at Birmingham. My husband is from Alabama, and I lived there for 51/2 years. I am a far cry from an outsider.
I will admit that "being employed" by the dentist for one year is an accomplishment, but it has nothing to do with dental hygiene. Sure, you took the same boards, but anyone can learn enough to pass any exam. What you fail to understand is that you miss out on all the experience, internships, rotations, and in-depth courses. I hardly believe that preceptors have the same quality of knowledge "crammed" into their heads over one year that I was taught over the course of four years.
You have confused the profession of hygiene with that of assisting. You state that you were "working on patients long before we picked up scalers." Get real! The job descriptions of assisting and hygiene couldn`t be more different. The two professions have separate job functions, one no better than the other. Big deal! You feel so qualified to fill in any spot of the office. Mixing cements and packing cord is a lot different from root planing and curettage.
The most ridiculous statement was, "If we are so incompetent, then why do our patients ask for us by name?" Give me a break. While I was going to school and practicing in Alabama, 90 percent of the patients I dealt with had no idea what a preceptor was. They all assumed that the person working on them had a college degree. As long as you are friendly and don`t hurt them, they are clueless about the quality of care or your qualifications.
Setting all that aside, there is another reason that preceptors are so detrimental to the hygiene profession. As a hygienist, I enjoy performing skilled, knowledgeable care on patients. I make a difference to people. If preceptors truly cared about the profession, they wouldn`t have elected to take the easy way out. They are so uninformed that they believe doctors have their best interest in mind when they express willingness to sponsor preceptors. The truth is that preceptors "empower" the dentist to maintain the upper hand in controlling our profession. Preceptors take the blame for lowering the wages and salaries of properly educated hygienists. That is the main incentive for dentists in Alabama. Why pay for the cow when you can get your milk for free?
In 1996, the powerful dental lobbyists in Alabama were able to close the hygiene program at UAB. This was made possible by the endless supply of cheap labor preceptors. Preceptors are merely pawns in the dentist`s game. It is the responsibility of all registered dental hygienists everywhere to fight the preceptor program tooth and nail. The integrity of our profession and the well-being of our patients depends on it.
René Bosshart, RDH