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The Contribution of Peer-mentorship in a Dental Hygiene Program to Confidence in Initial Professional Practice
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Dental hygienists are an essential constituent of the public health system. Research related to effective components of dental hygiene programs offers an opportunity to improve public oral health-care across the nation by graduating confident dental hygienists. The confidence of a dental hygienist influences their clinical judgment and how patients perceive their abilities. Peer-mentorship in dental hygiene education offers second-year level students the opportunity to provide support to first-year level students. Advantages and disadvantages for both the mentor and the mentee have been identified. The central research question of this study asked: What is the contribution of peer-mentorship in a dental hygiene program to confidence in initial professional practice? The participants included 34 students and three full-time faculty from a dental hygiene program in the western region of the United States. A mixed methods research design was used. Quantitative data included: surveys, graduation rates, and national board and regional/state clinical test scores. Qualitative data included telephone interviews with twelve students and three faculty who taught the three cohorts. Four students only had mentors during the first year of their dental hygiene program. Four students only acted as a mentor during the second year of their dental hygiene program. Four students had mentors during the first year and acted as a mentor during the second year of their dental hygiene program. Results from this study indicate that peer-mentorship as designed and implemented was not related to initial confidence in professional practice. Confidence to practice dental hygiene was associated with program rigor and initial professional practice. General peer-mentorship appeared to improve the learning experiences for the students who established positive relationships.