Exploring the career experiences of Australian oral health therapists in different practice settings

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  • Dennis Chen
  • Alexander C. Holden
  • Melanie J. Hayes


Objective: To examine the reasons behind Australian oral health therapists (OHTs) pursuing different career pathways. Basic research
design: Qualitative study with thematic analysis within an inductive realist approach. Methods: A convenience sample of OHTs completed
semi-structured interviews on Zoom. Participants discussed their experiences working as OHTs and commented on the future directions
for the profession in Australia. Results: Participants (n=21) chose clinical practice due to excellent job availability, good remuneration, and
the opportunity to use their knowledge. Many indicated that non-clinical careers helped relieve the stress and fatigue of clinical practice.
Some also enjoyed the variety that non-clinical jobs brought and viewed them as a means to advance their career. Participants indicated
the need to better communicate the professional role and scope of practice of the OHT profession to other healthcare providers such as
dentists and the general public. Some viewed independent practice as a way to serve the community. Others did not feel that they had the
knowledge and skills to do so. Conclusion: These findings may help individual OHTs in career decision-making. OHTs could assume a
major role in addressing oral healthcare inequality in Australia.
Keywords: Dental hygiene, oral health therapy, dental therapy, dental career, career experience, career satisfaction

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