Werth, Kimberly, and Judy Kwapis-Jaeger
The transition from dental hygiene student to professional practitioners has become all the more difficult by unemployment rates that are hovering above 14% and the current economic picture causing dental offices to downsize or cut hours of practice. Add this to the fact that the majority of dental hygiene students historically have a very limited work history or prior experience applying for employment. What can be done to help increase the marketability of graduates? A solid curriculum and clinical experiences will give them the educational background and experience necessary to practice but what skills will help them land the initial job? A mock working interview was initiated as part of a Professional Issues course during the last semester of dental hygiene program. As part of the course, students were taught to create a cover letter and resume then learned interviewing techniques through presentation and role playing. Dental faculty, dental alumni and office mangers with a recent history of practice management were recruited to act as interviewers. A simulated want ad was posted on the course website. Students called in to the posted number and requested an interview and then dropped off a resume and cover letter prior to the mock interview. Students randomly were scheduled with one of the volunteer interviewers. A calibration session was held with the volunteers prior to the interview session to discuss types of questions to be asked and the use of a feedback form. Core questions were agreed upon for each of the interviewers. Flexibility of additional questions was allowed so information could be exchanged to simulate a realistic interviewing environment in a dental setting. Following the interview students received feedback forms. Criterion based assessment categories were captured on the feedback form which was consistent with the instructional design in the classroom. A survey of participants (n=24) was conducted at the end of the course. Over 2/3 of the students reported that prior to mock interview they had experienced less than five interviews most in non-dental settings. After the mock interview, 86% of the students ranked themselves from more prepared to well prepared to go into a dental interview. The remaining students stated they were still nervous but felt more confident and more competent.
Based on the significant research which verifies the educational value of mock scenarios and role playing in better preparing students to be competent practitioners; the students were able to achieve competence in increased marketability through this project.