Oral Health Therapy Graduates: Where Are They Now?

1600 – 1630

Background: The profession of Oral Health Therapy (OHT) is relatively new and is still undergoing growth and development so there are few studies that explore OHT graduate outcomes. There have previously been two other studies conducted to date carried out at the University of Melbourne in 2009 and 2013. This study replicates the previous studies, in order to add new information to the existing understanding about OHT graduate outcomes for Victorian Bachelor of Oral Health (BOH) graduates between 2013-2017. Aim: This study aims to investigate the graduate outcomes: geographical distribution, scope of practice, employment, remuneration, job satisfaction and postgraduate study considerations of Victorian Oral Health Therapists who have graduated between 2013-2017 from The University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and Charles Sturt University Holmesglen. Methods: An estimated total of 300 OHTs have graduated between 2013-2017 from the University of Melbourne, La Trobe University and Charles Sturt University (Holmesglen). These participants were identified via the snowball method, utilizing personal networks and advertisements through the professional associations, such as Victorian Dental and Oral Health Association (ADOHTA Vic) and the Dental Hygienists Association, Victorian Branch (DHHAVB). A link to an online questionnaire (using Survey Monkey) was provided to all participants and data was analyzed using Excel. Results: A total of 64 questionnaires were completed, with the respondents being mainly female, with the majority (65%) employed as OHTs. Respondents were mostly employed in metropolitan areas; with 27% practicing in public sector, 58% in private and 15% in both sectors. There was a significant difference in the average wages of graduates employed in the public sector compared with those employed in private practices and there was a positive correlation between the years worked and salary. Overall OHTs were most commonly practising preventative procedures. Job satisfaction was reported to be higher in the private sector for all aspects surveyed and a majority of respondents indicated that it was not too difficult to find initial employment post graduation and there is interest in furthering education for a majority of respondents, across all years of graduation. Conclusion/Outcomes:  The information collected from this study allowed identification of changes in the workforce and the role of an OHT, which can be particularly useful to inform workforce planning and educational preparation.