HANCEVILLE, Ala. — After hovering at a excellent 96 percent pass rate for several years, the class of 2014 in Wallace State Community College’s Dental Hygiene program broke the streak with a perfect 100 percent pass rate for students taking the National Board exam. This gives the Wallace State students a head start in a career ranked among the top 10 best jobs of 2014.
CareerCast.com recently released rankings for the top 10 best jobs in 2014, with dental hygienist coming in at No. 6. Nationwide the median annual salary for dental hygienist is $70,210, with a projected job growth of 33 percent by 2022, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). “Opportunities in the field are abundance and expected to grow considerably by 2022,” the website said. “The most skilled in the field can command very competitive wages and a flexible works schedule.”
Making their students competitive in the workforce is what Wallace State instructors strive for in preparing their students for the National Board exam. The previous 96 percent rating accounted for only one out of about 30 students failing to pass the National Board exam, but that was still one too many for the program’s instructors, who worked to raise that number.
“We are so proud of the accomplishment of a 100 percent pass rate for the dental hygiene students on their National Board examinations,” said Lisa German, Dean of Health Sciences at Wallace State. “We are blessed to have a top-notch faculty and facility for that program, and we are thrilled with this wonderful outcome for our students.”
Barbara Ebert, director of the Dental Hygiene and Dental Assisting programs, said faculty used feedback from previous National Board exams to determine in which areas to apply more focus in helping students prepare for their exams.
“We worked on improving the presentation of those topics students performed less well on,” Ebert said, but added the students also helped themselves. “Another thing I think contributed to the students’ success is they were very good fundraisers and they raised enough money for everyone to get to go to the National Board review in Atlanta.”
The review was a grueling three-day workshop filled with lectures presented by experts from all over the country. The lectures worked as refresher courses on subjects the student studied at Wallace State. The students also received a book filled with notes from all of the lectures they could take home for further review before taking their exam.
The exam itself, Ebert said, is an eight-hour computerized test that requires a lot of critical thinking and problem solving skills. “That’s something we really work on,” Ebert said.
But the National Board isn’t the only exam they have to take. The students must also pass a regional clinical exam for the state in which they plan to practice, as well as a law and ethics exam for that same state.
“I’m very proud of this class,” Ebert added. “This was really a very dedicated group and they actually had a lot of challenges.”
One student was put on bed rest due to a high-risk pregnancy. Another student is pregnant with twins. Both of those students passed all of their exams, Ebert said. Without complaint, the class helped as the entire program transferred to an all computer-based and digital clinic.
“They were really just go-getters and a positive group,” Ebert said.
Once the students pass each of the three required exams they will be licensed dental hygienists, opening up doors of opportunity for a successful career.
Ebert said a majority of Wallace State Dental Hygiene students find work within a month of graduation and that the pay is usually ranked in the top 10 best paying jobs that require an associate degree. The annual mean wage for dental hygienist in Alabama is $46,530, according to the BLS.
A new class of dental hygienists starts in the fall of each year. A maximum of 30 students are chosen each year. Students interested in the program are encouraged to complete their general education courses prior to application. Completion of the program Associate Degree program takes five semesters. Wallace State is one of only two accredited Dental Hygiene programs in the state. Wallace State also offers a three-semester certificate and a five-semester Associate Degree in Dental Assisting.
For more information, contact Ebert at 256.352.8380 or visit www.wallacestate.edu/Programs/Health-Division/Dental-Hygiene.
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