By Christine Nathe, RDH, MS
Many times, dental hygienists decide to promote oral health in their community with motivation and enthusiasm, only to realize after starting that it is difficult to get others as enthusiastic about the project. One way to develop a plan that will be accepted before recruiting others is to develop a blueprint (using the dental hygiene process of care as depicted in the chart) with your overall goals, as well as a few objectives and strategies you will be using to implement your program.
Assessment: First is the need to thoroughly assess the problem, and there are many ways to do this without the need to conduct a research study. Asking key stakeholders and leaders that are involved with the target population is a great start! The National Oral Health Surveillance System (search for this at CDC.gov) is a great place to start looking for data germane to your project.
Interested in searching about dental hygiene or dental health, please try out the National Center for Dental Hygiene Research and Practice (search for related information at the Herman Ostrow School of Dentistry at the University of Southern California). Additionally, the American Association of State and Territorial Dental Directors (astdd.org) may have interesting information about existing programs in your area.
Planning: When developing your overall goal, stick to the main outcome you would like to achieve. For example, if you are disappointed by the amount of decay you are seeing in children at your child's school, your overall goal would be to decrease decay in that population. Your goal would not be place a certain number of sealants-although that may be a strategy to reaching your goal.
Next in order, to attain your overall goal, set a few objectives. If you have forgotten how to develop objectives and goals, access Healthy People 2020 (healthypeople.gov) and use or slightly edit your national goals and objectives. These are not difficult to develop and will help lead you to what type of impact you would like your project to have.
The fun part is last. You can now start thinking of strategies. Healthy People also has tools and toolkits, and the ADHA has great information on the utilization of dental hygienists in community clinics.
Next, you can now discuss with other dental hygienists who may be able to help improve your design for the project and thus have input and ownership with you of this next great initiative. Remember, your vision is set because you developed the overall goal and objectives, but now you can get help via these aforementioned resources to develop the program to its full potential!
During implementation, it may be necessary to make changes, based upon feedback (evaluation) or constraints. After implementation, formally evaluate your program using your goals and objectives and, of course-the data you documented throughout the process! RDH
CHRISTINE NATHE, RDH, MS, is director at the University of New Mexico, Division of Dental Hygiene, in Albuquerque, N.M. She is also the author of "Dental Public Health Research" (www.pearsonhighered.com/educator), which is in its third edition with Pearson. She can be reached at [email protected] or (505) 272-8147.