I was so pleased to read Cathleen Terhune Alty`s article on clinical testing and licensure (April 1997). I am president of the New York State Dental Hygiene Educators` Association (NYSDHEA), and we have been investigating the validity and reliability of our Northeast Regional Boards for the past six years.
Our position on this issue may seem radical to some, but sensible to us: "Eliminate clinical boards as a requirement for licensure, if a candidate has passed the National Board Examination and has graduated from an accredited dental hygiene program."
Why make dental hygiene students jump through one more hoop, when a one-time examination with questionable reliability and validity costs $400? What does it prove?
As educators, how can we support a one-time clinical examination when we have intensively evaluated our students for at least two years, and they have consistently performed at a satisfactory level, and our dental hygiene programs have gone through rigorous accreditation standards validating our clinical teaching?
A one-time clinical examination does not protect the public. There are too many variables presented by each client to prove the examination is uniform and valid. The question of using human subjects for the examination has also been an issue raised by the American Association of Dental Schools. Also, many clinical boards do not examine current clinical theory related to tissue response after treatment.
Clinical boards for entry into the dental hygiene profession imply that all dental hygienists will only practice clinical dental hygiene, but there are many hygienists who are employed in alternate practice settings where clinical skills are not utilized.
The NYSDHEA has gained support for the elimination of clinical boards from many faculty in all states represented in the NERB region. Because each state has different laws and regulations, this issue must be won state by state. In order to make licenses portable from state to state, the sooner we work on this issue the sooner we will see the light at the end of the tunnel. Please contact your nearest dental hygiene program and discuss this issue with them.
Kathryn Sielski, RDH, MS