By Amanda Sotelo, TSTC Staff
The Spring 2019 Dental Hygiene class at Texas State Technical College has made the college proud by earning not one, but two, 100 percent pass rates on their national board and clinical exams.
“This is something very difficult to do,” said Victoria Martin, TSTC Dental Hygiene instructor. “The boards are a challenging exam, critical to a graduate’s licensure. And I’m extremely proud of this class. They worked really hard for this.”
The class, made of up 27 students, is one of the larger classes to individually and collectively achieve passing grades on the national tests. Martin said it is extremely rare to have this many students achieve a 100 percent pass rate on both tests.
The two exams students must tackle are: the National Board Dental Hygiene Examination and the Western Regional Examining Board (WREB), to be able to work after receiving their associate degree from TSTC’s two-year Dental Hygiene program.
“These tests encompass everything our students have learned throughout their time in the program,” said Martin. “By the time the students take these exams in their last semester, they are ready. We make sure of it.”
The National Board Dental Hygiene Examination determines qualifications of dental hygienists who seek licensure to practice dental hygiene. Everything from basic biomedical and dental sciences to ethics and pharmacology are assessed.
To prepare for this exam, dental hygiene instructors create practice tests formatted similar to board exams, provide board reviews and practice tests.
“All of this preparation is vital to our students’ success. It’s an entire overview that encompasses everything they learn,” said Martin. “Plus, this is an all-day test, with only a break for lunch, we need them to have the stamina. It’s important for them to know the information, but also to know how to take the exam.”
In addition to lecture and test preparation, TSTC Dental Hygiene students also practice direct patient care with the program’s Dental Hygiene Clinic that is open to TSTC faculty, staff and the community.
At the clinic every student has the opportunity to work in a dental setting assessing a patients’ health history, vitals and x-rays to diagnosis and treatment.
“As a dental hygienist they’re in charge of a person’s oral health care and overall physical health, since both have been linked,” said Martin. “And our clinic not only gives them the real-world experience they need, but it helps them get ready to pass the WREB.”
And for the first time this spring, TSTC hosted the WREB, a standardized clinical exam for licensure, on campus for its students and surrounding dental hygiene programs.
In the past TSTC Dental Hygiene students would have to travel with their patients, to either San Antonio or Houston, but since qualifying as a WREB testing center, TSTC students can now take their exam on campus.
“This is a huge deal for us and a huge step forward,” said Martin. “We plan on hosting it annually and we hope more schools closer to our area take advantage of it.”
Spring 2019 Dental Hygiene graduate Noah Degollado said he was not surprised at all to learn that his class had achieved such an accomplishment.
“As a class we worked closely together to help each other out and make sure we were all doing well,” he said. “And our instructors, honestly, over prepared us, if that’s such a thing. They taught us how to be analytical and critical thinkers and because of them we knew what we had to know and what we had to do to succeed.”
The 26-year-old McAllen native said he is grateful for his time at TSTC and to his instructors, to whom he credits for his success.
He received job offers before even taking his national board and clinical exams and is now a dental hygienist for Top Dental and Zen Dental in the Rio Grande Valley.
TSTC’s Dental Hygiene program has seen a job placement rate in the past few years of 100 percent with an average starting salary, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, of $35 an hour.
The program begins accepting applications in January, with the application period ending in March. New cohorts of 30 students begin every Fall Semester.
For more information on Dental Hygiene, visit tstc.edu/programs/DentalHygiene.