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The whisper of salary freezes

Nov. 1, 2011
Let’s call filling out an automated questionnaire after work in the comfort of home at dusk a whisper.

by Mark Hartley
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Let’s call filling out an automated questionnaire after work in the comfort of home at dusk a whisper. Maybe a glass of wine is involved. Maybe that wine fuels an increase in the decibel level of that whisper, just enough to prompt the family dog to raise its head in wonderment. After all, RDH eVillage just asked if you wanted to comment on trends in dental hygiene salaries and benefits in your community.

How calm is that whisper when you reflect on how long it’s been since you’ve had a raise? How calm is that whisper when you speculate on how you, a licensed health-care professional, are going to pay for some basic necessities this month?

There’s no question that the prevailing atmosphere in this country is: Just tough it out. Cut back on expenses and don’t buy anything with a credit card (as long as the neighbors don’t cut back spending on dental services). The prevailing mood is to be calm and methodical with our finances. Spend, but don’t do it recklessly.

Over the last two years, I have read a lot of these whispers as Kristine Hodsdon (the director of RDH eVillage) and I have evaluated the results of the e-newsletter’s salary survey. One whisper that catches my attention is one that goes like this:

“There are so many hygienists in our area and so few jobs available. Employers are now paying less when hiring a dental hygienist.”

Without question, salary freezes are commonplace across a variety of occupations during the economic recession. But less money?

A risk is involved with health-care practitioners being on a list of occupations earning less income. Consumers would understandably get nervous if their health was in the hands of someone discouraged about the monetary rewards of his or her career choice.

The chart above lists the average hourly salary rates for dental hygienists in the 10 states that are the most actively involved with the RDH eVillage survey.

There’s some red ink in the chart. Are salaries falling in Florida, New York, Ohio, and Texas? In addition, RDH eVillage prepared another report on urban areas. The statistics indicated a decrease in salaries in Chicago, California’s Bay Area, Los Angeles, Detroit, Atlanta, District of Columbia, Seattle, Denver, Philadelphia, and Tampa.

Hygienists from all of these areas are among those who are concerned about too many hygienists looking for jobs, too many new dental hygiene schools opening up, and decreasing control over their financial well-being.

The statistics can be viewed on Search for “salary survey 2011.”

Please excuse them if they whisper their nervousness about a salary freeze turning into a downhill avalanche.

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