Be it resolved that “client” should be the term used to describe the people dental hygienists treat.
Dentists and dental hygienists will, and argue that the people that they see should be referred to as patients. However, it has been argued that these people should be referred to as clients. The controversy arises in the premise that the term client is likened to business services. As such, the discomfort is based on the fact that in this way, dental hygienists are preserved as businesspeople rather than health care providers. This report will offer arguments on both sides of the divide. In order to achieve this, the report will detail three affirmative arguments and three negative arguments for the proposition.
The relationship between the practitioner and the patient base should be grounded in transparency and honesty. The practitioner is ethically obliged to ensure that the person being treated to understand the value of what the practitioner is doing. This is because as a consumer, the person has economic interests, and as such, this information is important in order to make choices that are suitable to their economic situation (Darby & Walsh, 2009)
Additionally, dental hygienists require other non-monetary expenses. These require the person being treated to make discretionary decisions regarding time, and by extension money. In this respect, these people are clients by the virtue of these decisions. As such, the people diagnosed and treated by dental hygienists are clients in this respect. They can only be referred to as patients when dentistry is performed in them, something that is beyond the scope of dental hygienists.
The final argument on the affirmative position is the fact that client relations are necessary for any profession, and more so for a dental hygienist. By seeing the people they treat as clients, dental hygienists can develop the ability to relate to their clients on a business level. Additionally, this helps to improve the effectiveness of their service delivery.
Referring to the people seen by dental hygienists as clients also remove the human touch that is required in health care. This is because by referring to them as clients, the focus of the whole practice is centered on the transactional element of the entire practice instead of the health care element. In this way, dental hygienists fear they will be seen as business people, a tag they do not prefer because they practice in the heath care delivery field.
The final argument on the negative position is on the ethical perspective. As health care professionals, dental hygienists are held accountable to a code of ethical conduct. Ethics is important in the medical profession because they safeguard the interests of the patients by requiring practitioners to perform their duties within the framework of a code of ethics. When the people seen by dental hygienists are referred to as clients, the ethical requirements are different. In this way, the clients are on the losing end (College of Dental Hygienists of Ontario, 2014).
While the negative position regarding the topic is well grounded, the affirmative position that the people dental hygienists treat be referred to as clients hold more merit. This is because, in this way, the clients are more informed of their position, and as such are better placed to make decisions regarding the service.
- Darby, M. & Walsh, M. Dental Hygiene: Theory and Practice. Elsevier Health Sciences. 2009.
- Ozar, D & Sokol, D. Dental Ethics at Chairside: Professional Principles and Practical Applications. Georgetown University Press. 2002.