Non-working dental therapists: opportunities to ameliorate workforce shortages

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Abstract

Background: Workforce development is a critical factor allowing delivery on government health priorities. Against a backdrop of increasing demand for dental therapists being significantly higher than the levels of recruitment, it is widely acknowledged that rural and remote areas (having greater recruitment and retention issues) will face a significant shortfall in therapist numbers as the workforce shortages take hold in dentistry. This study analysed the reasons for dental therapists leaving the profession, and factors that would promote the recruitment and retention of dental therapists, especially in rural and remote areas.Methods. A postal survey was undertaken amongst all registered dental therapists in Western Australia between the years 1999-2003.Results: Of all respondents, 28 per cent indicated that they do not work as dental therapists anymore. A number of reasons for leaving the profession were highlighted, including family reasons, career change, poor salaries, relocation, illness and injury, and stress. To increase retention and recruitment of dental therapists to rural areas, a number of opportunities were highlighted by respondents, including increased salaries, living support, travel assistance, access to continuing education, recruitment of more rural students and more flexibility (including job sharing).Conclusion: This survey has highlighted various opportunities to recruit and retain dental therapists in their profession and to increase the numbers of rural dental therapists. A broad integrated rural retention strategy is necessary to address these issues among the dental therapy workforce.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-25
JournalAustralian Dental Journal
Volume52
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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