Educational integration: a foundation strategy for increasing job satisfaction within the oral health team

Research objectives: To consider what factors impact on human resource shortages across the public sector oral health team in NSW.

Study design: Nine focus groups with the professions constituting the oral health team (dental officers, dental therapists, dental nurses, dental prosthetists and technicians) were conducted in NSW (4 regional, 5 metropolitan) in late 2001. 

Principal findings:All four professional groups perceived human resource attrition rates and recruitment to be a serious problem facing dental service delivery in NSW. All groups suggested that the structural fragmentation that exists within the education and training of oral health professionals is the key impediment to achieving service delivery as an oral health team. Improvement in team building capacity was seen as the most fundamental issue to achieving better outcomes for providers and patients. 

Conclusions: Horizontal integration of education and training was seen as the most important way to enable vertical integration of the oral health team in practice and provide a foundation for other human resource initiatives aimed at increasing job satisfaction. 

Implications: The apparent concurrence between recommendations made by the AHMC ‘Oral health of Australians (2001) report on national planning for oral health improvement on issues for building an oral health team and the perspectives of the oral health team revealed by this research suggests that it is timely to focus attention on education and training the dental professions and their work practices in Australia.

K Jones*, D Teusner

Presented at the 35th Public Health Association of Australia Annual Conference, 28 September – 1 October 2003, Brisbane, Australia

Note: * indicates presenter

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