Date of Award

Fall 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Susan L, Tolle

Committee Member

Ann Bruhn

Committee Member

Amber W. Hunt


Problem: Workplace bullying in health care affects career satisfaction, career longevity and patient outcomes. The purpose of this study was to determine if bullying was occurring in dental hygiene employment settings as well as its prevalence in a convenience sample of dental hygienists.

Methods: After IRB approval, 1200 subscribers to a professional dental hygiene journal were invited to participate. Employing the validated Negative Acts Questionnaire-Revised (NAQ-R), participants were asked to indicate how often they experienced 22 defined negative behaviors according to rate of occurrence (never, now and then or monthly, weekly or daily) over the past six months. Bullying was defined as experiencing two or more of the 22 behaviors at least weekly. Participants were also asked to respond to six demographic questions relating to gender, age, employment setting, ethnicity, education level and years of practice.

Results: An overall response rate of 12.5% (N=154) was obtained. Data revealed 28% (n=44) of participants met the criteria for being bullied, as defined by the NAQ-R. Of this number, three or more negative acts were experienced by 22% of participants at least weekly and six percent of participants experienced two negative acts. Participants with 5 to 10 years of experience had the highest prevalence of bullying. No significant differences (p=.11) were found when comparing bullying mean scores of participants in solo dental practices (x̄= 34.3, n=83) versus group dental practices (x̄=39, n=52). Participants with 11 to 19 years of experience experienced significantly less bullying (x̄=31.9, n=30) compared to those with 5 to 10 years’ experience (x̄= 42.8, n=26) (p=.01).

Conclusion: Workplace bullying is a serious problem for many dental hygienists. Recognizing the occurrence is an important first step in addressing needed preventive measures and policies for those targeted. Over one-fourth of respondents indicated they experienced workplace bullying. Findings underscore the need for more research to determine bullying prevalence in a larger sample of dental hygienists as well as to develop strategies for prevention.


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