What to like about the salary survey

The salary survey is that colossal behemoth that statistically tells us that if a dental hygienist wants to live on the cutting edge, follow the Beverly Hillbillies to California, or, if an all-around comfort level is desired, stay in the Midwest where the cost of living isn't that bad.

Oct 1st, 2011

The salary survey is that colossal behemoth that statistically tells us that if a dental hygienist wants to live on the cutting edge, follow the Beverly Hillbillies to California, or, if an all-around comfort level is desired, stay in the Midwest where the cost of living isn’t that bad. Hygienists on the East Coast, of course, remain imprisoned with the consolation that at least the kids are getting a good education — suffer through the agony so junior doesn’t have to be a dental hygienist.

I don’t know. Sometimes reviewing the statistics leave me wondering: When exactly is the best time to go through the statistics? Is after breakfast or during lunch the best time to read a four-new-hygiene-schools-are-within-a-mile-of-my-house-and-the-tickled-pink-boss-just-lowered-my-hourly-rate-by-another-buck rant?

I am being facetious, of course, and actually enjoy going through the numbers. What do I like about the early returns of the 2011 salary survey?

We kind of hinted that there’s a door dental hygienists can walk through to forever leave the profession. Only 7% said it’s “highly likely” that they would walk through it. Seven percent, of course, is higher than during the boom years, when all dental personnel are excited by all of the nearby residents who can afford oral health care on a routine and consistent basis.

I also like — despite the fact that the economy has been a handy scapegoat for anything not normal — that the business of dentistry seems to be OK.

Only 18% of hygienists sense that the practice owners are “very concerned” about reduced revenues, and only 4% said they know that the practice’s “financial health is very weak.”

What does a hygienist know, right?

Be careful how you answer that question. We’re talking about the most perceptive person in the office, the one individual who detects if something is off kilter with each and every patient. Hygienists may not know the exact dollar amount, but they can tell if business is out of synch.

The salary survey, by the way, is still open for you to answer. It moved from the magazine to RDH eVillage a few years ago. The questionnaire is easier to complete and “mail,” and the results are tabulated and reported more quickly. If you happened to miss the last few issues of RDH eVillage, the direct link to the survey is: http://www.surveymonkey.com/s/SCVVZDJ. RDH eVillage will publish several articles based on the survey statistics. Search DentistryIQ.com for the articles.

Yes, there are things I didn’t like about the salary survey, starting with the benefits segment of the suvey:

  • 41% have health insurance
  • 40% have paid sick leave
  • 12% have disability insurance

In addition, whether it’s a scapegoat or not, the economy is part of the mindset of being a hygienist in this second decade of the new millennium. Seventy-seven percent believe “national, state, or local economic conditions” affect hygienists’ ability to “earn the maximum income” that they seek.

While the good news is that 7% say it’s highly likely that they will leave dental hygiene, another 30% admit that they think about leaving; let’s hope we regain a level where a third of the profession isn’t thinking about leaving it all behind.

Finally, there is the statistic related to the issue that has been a common theme of discussion at almost any gathering of dental hygienists — the opening of a new dental hygiene school down the street.

Sixty-nine percent have indicated that it is “extremely difficult” to find a job in their community. It’s hard to imagine two-thirds of the profession taking the upbeat approach, “I will just create an opportunity for myself.” Organized dentisty doesn’t even like it when hygienists try to expand by following the standard protocol as dictated by dental practice acts.

by Mark Hartley
markh@pennwell.com
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