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Community health centers continue to benefit from nationwide survey

Dr. Kenneth Anthony Bolin
Dr. Kenneth Anthony Bolin

Dr. Kenneth Anthony Bolin, associate professor in Texas A&M Health Science Center Baylor College of Dentistry’s Department of Public Health Sciences, completed his dental public health residency project more than seven years ago, but related follow-up activities continue to provide far-reaching benefits for community health centers nationwide.

Bolin’s latest installment in the project was conducted with the assistance of the nonprofit National Network for Oral Health Access, gathering survey data designed to measure job satisfaction, provide salary benchmarks and yield recruitment strategies to address vacancies in community health centers.

The most surprising recent survey result—based on responses from several hundred dentists and executive directors from 700 U.S. public health clinics—is that salary is not the primary factor in determining whether a provider stays employed by or accepts a job offer with a community health center. Pre-existing altruism figures more prominently, Bolin says.

“That is one reason why dental student exposure to community dentistry is so important,” says Bolin. “The more that dental students get sent out into the community during their training, the more positive feeling they have about that type of activity.”

Survey results are providing lasting direction for community health centers in addressing staffing issues.

“Dental directors said they needed updated information,” Bolin says, “and NNOHA came to me because I had done the benchmark survey in 2002.” The original results, in fact, received broad exposure when they were published in the February 2005 Journal of the American Dental Association.

The latest results were issued in October 2010.

Bolin points out other ancillary benefits afforded to community health center employees, including paid vacation and sick leave and freedom from the business aspects of managing a practice.

“All of this information can be helpful in the recruitment process for health center personnel,” he says.

The dental providers serving public health patients ultimately benefit from the broad-based survey’s results.

“The excellent work done by Ken Bolin, Baylor and the NNOHA Workforce Committee and staff in completing this survey has added crucial elements to our understanding of the make up, characteristics and motivations of oral health providers in health centers around the country,” says Dr. Wayne Cottam, NNOHA vice president and chairman of the Workforce Committee.

“This information will inform the direction of recruitment and retention efforts of the community-based oral health workforce for several years to come,” continues Cottam. “The fact that it follows up on previous work done by Dr. Bolin and is in response to specific requests by HRSA [Health Resources and Services Administration] and the NNOHA membership gives the results increased applicability and relevance.”