I am writing in response to the Readers` Forum (June 1999). Dr. E.J. Neiburger said, "Don`t delude yourself. Scraping teeth requires no exceptional skills. Many people can do the same quality work, if adequately trained. Most patients and dentists will not recognize the difference." What an ignorant and insulting statement, especially knowing it came from a dental professional! My husband is a Radiologic Technologist. I suppose Dr. Neiburger would say his job "requires no exceptional skills. Why all he does is push buttons all day, taking X-rays!" Tell that to his emergency room patients! How much skill could it possibly take to pack amalgam in a hole in a tooth!
Which brings me to the subject of preceptorship-trained hygienists. I completed my dental hygiene training in South Carolina in June 1968. I took the South Carolina and Alabama state boards two days apart. Having passed the national written board, I was not required to take the Alabama written exam that was being given to the preceptorship-trained students, but I sat in on the exam. Approximately 20 spelling words were called out and then a very short, simple, and basic information exam was given. I am sure that today the exam is more difficult, or at least I hope it is!
I was puzzled by the fact that Birmingham had closed its dental hygiene program and asked several dentists why. They all said that the Alabama dentists wanted to fix it so that Alabama hygienists would not be able to practice in any other states because so many were moving to Florida. And, oh, how Alabama has succeeded!
Everyone criticizes preceptorship training as not providing quality care for patients. But just as your letter in Readers` Forum from Alabama hygienists Vicki Nelson and Debbie Bates states: "Going to college doesn`t guarantee a good or caring hygiene student." I am sure that many hygienists in Alabama have attended continuing education seminars just as college-trained hygienists around the country have.
Wake up, people! The real losers in this game are the Alabama hygienists (low wages, confined to practicing only in Alabama), not the patients! And guess who the winners are!
Giovanna A. Becker, RDH
Charleston, South Carolina