Date of Award

Spring 1998

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Dental Hygiene


Dental Hygiene

Committee Director

Michele L. Darby

Committee Member

Deanne Shuman

Committee Member

Pamela Brangan

Call Number for Print

Special Collections LD4331.D46 E66


The purpose of this descriptive research was to determine the need for a distance education program for geographically dispersed dental hygienists to complete a baccalaureate degree program in dental hygiene. The sample consisted of randomly selected licensed dental hygienists in the Commonwealth of Virginia. A self-designed instrument, titled The Distance Education for a Dental Hygiene Degree Completion Program Questionnaire, was mailed to the study participants after establishing validity and reliability. The questionnaire asked participants to provide information concerning personal demographics, educational background, and interest in completing a dental hygiene baccalaureate degree via distance education. Frequencies, percentages, crosstabulations, chi-square test of association, in conjunction with analysis of residuals and lambda were used for data analysis.

Results indicated that 29.8% of Virginia dental hygienists surveyed are pursuing education beyond their associate degree or certificate in dental hygiene. Of the dental hygienists surveyed, 27.2% have taken a distance education course, either as continuing education or college credit courses. Dental hygienists were asked to rate the importance of various program design factors considered when making a decision to pursue a bachelor's of science degree in dental hygiene. Of these factors, those indicated as being .. very important'' to the majority of Virginia dental hygienists surveyed were: tuition costs, weekend/evening course availability, geographic location, the length of time to complete the program, part-time study availability and faculty/institution reputations. Study participants also rated as "'very important" the following personal reasons for seeking an advanced degree in dental hygiene: to increase knowledge and skill, to better serve patients, and personal satisfaction. Gaining entrance into graduate school was rated as being "not important" by the majority of study participants. The value of the baccalaureate degree in dental hygiene was determined by the factors and reasons rated by dental hygienists when making a decision to pursue an advanced degree. Based on the responses, many dental hygienists value such a degree and 72.4% expressed an interest in pursuing an advanced degree if courses were conveniently located and flexible to accommodate family and employment schedules. The implementation of a dental. hygiene degree completion program via distance education may provide opportunities for many dental hygienists in areas of Virginia that otherwise would not be available.


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