The Importance of Developing Communication Skills: Perceptions of Dental Hygiene Students

Kimberly K. Walker, Richard D. Jackson, Lisa Maxwell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

3 Scopus citations


Purpose: The purpose of this study was to gather data from first- and second-year dental hygiene students concerning their perceptions of the benefits and possible impediments to effective patient communication. Additionally, the students were asked to theorize as to the impact emerging communication technologies could have on oral health promotion, practice administration and patient/provider communication.Methods: A self-administered questionnaire of 6 open-ended queries was employed. Thematic analysis was conducted to reveal themes related to their perceived ability to effectively communicate, perceived barriers to communication, possible solutions to lessen or eliminate these barriers, and the impact of emerging technologies on interpersonal communication.Results: The questionnaire was completed by 63 of 68 students (93%). Patient apathy and patient unwillingness to change detrimental health-related habits were the most frequently cited barriers to effective communication. Of the students having patient contact, many stated that they were less sure of their ability to communicate effectively if the patient differed from themselves, such as being elderly or being from another culture. While most of the students believed their fundamental communication skills were good, many noted that improving their higher-order skills, such as conveying empathy or displaying a nonjudgmental attitude, were essential to being more effective communicators. Many students felt emerging technologies such as universal translators could potentially assist them in overcoming some of their perceived deficiencies.Conclusion: While perceived inadequacies will likely diminish as the students gain more experience in school and later in private practice, dental hygiene programs may wish to consider implementing additional structured educational experiences to better prepare students to address patient apathy and to effectively convey a sense of personal compassion. Promoting student involvement in community outreach activities and providing a variety of service learning opportunities, including foreign travel, may broaden student experiences and deepen their awareness and appreciation of verbal and nonverbal communications displayed by differing cultures.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)306-312
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of dental hygiene : JDH
Issue number5
StatePublished - Oct 1 2016


  • behavioral research
  • dental and dental hygiene workforce models
  • education concepts and theory
  • health literacy
  • qualitative analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)

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