Sixty percent of dental hygienists anticipate earning less than 25% of their required CEUs for relicensure through online coursework in 2012, according to a RDH eVillage survey of 232 dental hygienists in late 2011.
The survey asked hygienists about their favored method of earning continuing education credits, and only 14% prefer online methods instead of a single live seminar (42%), large dental conferences with multiple seminars (36%), and coursework completed through journals (6%).
Only 7% said they anticipate earning all required CEUs online. The other estimations were for about "half" of online CEUs (26%) and "three-quarters" (8%).
Dental hygienists were also asked about the percentage of earned CEUs that are free, as opposed to courses requiring a tuition fee. Thirty-six percent said they pay for "all" CE courses, while 20% "pay for very few courses over a licensure period."
A related question asked respondents if they viewed themselves as "continuing education junkies" (earning far more credits than needed for relicensure), or if they just planned on earning the minimum required. Sixty-three percent said they strive to just comply with state requirements.
What are the current seminars of choice? The survey broke course topics down into four categories. The first category addressed presentations on "dental products." The top choice was "evaluation of new dental hygiene products" (37%), followed by "incorporation of xylitol-based products" (15%), "evaluation of ergonomic products for the dental hygienist" (15%), "incorporation of probiotic products" (14%), and "abrasion caused by oral health products" (13%). The least popular topic in this category was "incorporation of fluoride-based products" (2%).
The next category was "targeted patient populations." The topic of "public health dentistry/community outreach programs" (20%) was the most popular topic, followed by "oral health concerns of geriatric populations" (17%) and "oral health concerns of the medically compromised" (15%). The topic of "oral health concerns of users of illegal drugs" (3%) was the least interesting course considered.
The third category listed a long list of 21 topics related to dental science or clinical treatment. The top choices, according to survey respondents were: "medical/dental systemic links" (16%) and "soft-tissue laser therapy" (10%). The least popular topics were "chairside whitening procedures" (1%) and "basic restorative techniques" (1%).
The final category addressed topics related to "practice management." The topics of "electronic health records" (28%), "teamwork/staff communications" (16%), and "patient communication strategies (15%) were the top choices for seminar topics. The topic of "infection control" (7%) was the least popular.
The survey also invited respondents to comment on trends that they perceive about dental continuing education. Here are some of the comments:
- It should be our option as hygienists to take courses online, if that is our choice; the dentist's should not be able to make this decision for us.
- I appreciate hands-on courses. I want to see it, touch it, read about it, and do it.
- Webinars are good for sharing basic information; however, I prefer face-to-face seminars focused on a topic with demonstrations (and samples for evaluation). Audience size should be 100 to 300 for best learning experience.
- CE helps our career feel like a career and not just a job. Being a professional. It is worth the extra time to invest in CE.
- I really like short courses. Not many topics require a full day of CE or stay interesting for that long. I like the variety offered online, but really enjoy going to my local component meetings in the evening.
- While online courses are extremely helpful for hygienists with time and money concerns, live courses are for me still the best for piquing my interest in my profession.
- The best part of CE is the interaction with others and hearing the additional comments from the speaker that are not be part of the printed course materials.
- Many of the CE courses are elementary and repetitive. They need to address the changing science to keep us up-to-date about oral systemic concerns and focus on health history and drug history as well.
- Mandatory requirements have ruined the quality of CE speakers/courses — too many are not worth the time or expense.
- Some courses are too expensive. I personally spend around $5,000 a year on dental conferences.
- I look for free courses. I work part time and find that most are too expensive. I understand that the presenters have to be paid, but I don't make tons of money. I agree that we need to keep up, and I personally would take more courses if they were not so expensive.
- Live seminars are usually made up of older attendees. Younger hygienists miss out on the interaction when doing online CE. We all can learn from others!