Well-trained in Alabama

Once again your magazine has published an outsider`s opinion (Ms. Weiner) on the Alabama preceptorship program. In the four years that we have been receiving this magazine, there has been a constant barrage of insults regarding this program. Have you interviewed anyone from Alabama who has been through this program? The letters are always from someone other than the state of Alabama. How can you judge something you know little about? And trust me, all of your accusations are not well researched.

Dear RDH,

Once again your magazine has published an outsider`s opinion (Ms. Weiner) on the Alabama preceptorship program. In the four years that we have been receiving this magazine, there has been a constant barrage of insults regarding this program. Have you interviewed anyone from Alabama who has been through this program? The letters are always from someone other than the state of Alabama. How can you judge something you know little about? And trust me, all of your accusations are not well researched. Do you even know what "preceptor" means? Look it up! The definition is a teacher or instructor.

First of all, we have to be employed by a dentist for at least a year prior to applying for the program. The courses are taken over a year, and we must pass our tests in order to take the State Board test. And, yes, we take the same state board test the "formally educated" hygienists take. We also take the same clinical test.

We get the feeling that most of you against our program assume that we just walk in off the street to a dental office and decide to go to hygiene school. How ignorant! Most of us assist several years before going through the program. This gives us a solid foundation for the courses we take. So before we ever picked up a scaler, we were already working on patients and counseling them about treatment plans.

Why is it a problem that our dentist trained us? After all, he was trained by dentists himself. Wasn`t there a dentist present during your training? We were taught by many of the same professors who teach dental students at the UAB School of Dentistry in Birmingham. Ms. Weiner`s misguided analogy about surgeons being trained by MDs in an office doesn`t even apply to this situation. You`re comparing scalers to scalpels! There`s a big difference!

Another problem we have with the articles and letters in this magazine is that the hygienists seem to think they`re above the dentists. What egos! And the statements made against dental assistants is appalling. Most of you need one room to work on patients, and another room just for your ego! In our office, the hygienists and assistants work together so that we can give the best care possible.

We`re also tired of reading that we don`t offer quality care because we didn`t go to college. Going to college doesn`t guarantee a good or caring hygiene student. It all depends on the individual and the effort they put into the program. So quit implying that all of the hygienists in Alabama are inferior.

As for Ms. Weiner, we have a question for you. Since you are so sure that we can`t possibly be as good as you, have you ever assisted your dentist? You see, since the majority of us have assisted prior to becoming hygienists, we can fill in anywhere in the office as needed. And since we have this knowledge, we know exactly what to tell our patients when they ask about various treatment plans and what procedures will be involved. We don`t see how a hygienist can be effective without the assisting skills. And, yes, Ms. Weiner, we have all the skills listed in your letter. And we do have to keep our license current by attending continuing education courses every year.

So before you start informing people that they`re not getting quality care in Alabama, I`d like for you to speak to our patients. I know they`d have a different story to tell you. How odd that they`d ask for us by name if we`re so incompetent. Most of our patients don`t mind coming in because they know they`ll be given the same quality care by the hygienists and assistants that our dentist provides.

Gee, Ms. Weiner, we hope you did your homework for hygiene school better than you did for your article. You really should pay us a visit, and you`d see that we`re not the uncaring and uneducated people you make us out to be.

Vicki Nelson

Debbie Bates

Cullman, Alabama

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