Practice Makes Perfect

Students in the Fones School of Dental Hygiene are using video tutorials to enhance their instrument skills.
Chances are that when you visit your dentist’s office, you’re not thinking of the intensive study completed by your registered dental hygienist. From oral cancer screening and evaluation of gum disease to removing plaque and interpreting dental radiographs, hygienists need to learn an array of critical skills before embarking on a career in the dental hygiene profession. The University of Bridgeport’s Fones School of Dental Hygiene is the first and oldest school of dental hygiene in the United States. The faculty delivers rigorous lecture and clinical classes designed to prepare students for the national written boards and regional practical board exams, as well as for a successful career.

In 2011, Laurel Risom, RDH, MPH, Clinical Assistant Professor and Dental Public Health Instructor, set out to study the efficacy of supplementary, tutorial-based Multi-Media Instruction (MMI) in instrumentation skills instruction for first-year dental hygiene students. Risom’s research team included first year Fones clinical faculty, Kristin Anderson, RDH, MSDH, Karen Williams RDH, MS, Sandra Stramoski RDH, MSDH, and student researchers MS candidate Kateri Klesyk RDH, BSDH and BS student intern Sabrina DeBacco RDH.

According to Risom, “The role of mixed media instruction in health science clinical education has gained in popularity in recent years. Whether nursing, dental or medical instruction, many universities are now incorporating this style of teaching in their curriculums.” However, MMI in dental hygiene schools has not been well documented. Risom explains, “One of the unique facets of this project is the investigation of teaching methodology of clinical psychomotor skills using quantitative analytical statistics (numerical data) in a blinded study to evaluate the results. Many dental hygiene teaching methodology studies are supported by qualitative, descriptive statistics and student self reporting for the results.”

As a core of dental hygiene practice, the ability to use instruments correctly is tested for student competency during the regional practical dental hygiene exams for licensure and ultimately is tied to a graduate’s success in dental hygiene practice. First-year students are expected to learn and master 13 instruments that are used for the assessment of dental health and the debridement (removal of plaque and calculus) of teeth, which, like any psychomotor skill, requires practice. Instruction and practice are conducted in the classroom and in clinic, but students do not all become proficient at the same pace. That, coupled with the need to study at home from memory, may leave some students behind or, worse, practicing incorrectly at home, which must be caught and corrected during clinic practice.

Risom’s team was interested in determining whether or not the use of dental hygiene instrumentation videos (MMI videos) for practice, especially the visualization of correct instrument use, can enhance student clinical psychomotor skills for competent instrument usage. For research purposes, the experimental and control groups were each assessed by faculty evaluators, who were not aware of the group to which the students being evaluated were assigned. Prior to course-graded work, all students were provided with access to the MMI videos. The MMI videos were created by the first-year Fones clinical faculty team, and were made available to the experimental group, and then to all first-year students, via Blackboard.

Plans are underway to extend this research an additional academic year, working once again with the team of calibrated clinical faculty who teach the first-year dental hygiene students. While formal statistical analysis is underway, Risom explains that, “Preliminary results reveal positive feedback from our students about being able to view the instructional videos our research team created. Students reported they used the videos to practice instrumentation skills (assessment and debridement use of their 13 dental hygiene instruments) at home on their typodonts (practice tooth models with simulated plaque and calculus deposits). Student’s reported after viewing the videos they felt more confident with their instrumentation skills in clinic when practicing on ‘real patients’ and student partners. Another unexpected gain from our project was the confidence the students reported.”

Risom and team expect to see improved instrumentation practice, which will translate to more proficient and skilled student clinicians during patient treatment. They plan to present their research findings at the American Dental Hygiene Association (ADHA) Annual meeting in 2013 and to publish their findings in the American Dental Education Association’s Journal of Dental Education.

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