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Iowa Dental Hygienists’ Association Works to Get License Compact Passed

Donnella Miller, RDH, MPS, president of the Iowa Dental Hygienists’ Association, helped lead her state’s dental hygienists in advocating for a license compact allowing dental hygienists to practice in neighboring states.

Donnella Miller, RDH, MPS, is no stranger to out-of-the-box thinking. While beginning her career as a private practice dental hygienist, she now works in the Department of Corrections, overseeing its dental department. And she has little patience for roadblocks that may interfere with the ability of dental hygienists to get the job done.

A “mover and shaker” in dental hygiene education, leadership, and advocacy on the local, state, and national levels over the past two decades, Miller has served as president of the Iowa and Tennessee Dental Hygienists’ Associations. She has been an advocate of dental hygiene for the past 20 years. She has served on numerous boards, committees, and task forces to promote oral health and access to care and advance the dental hygiene profession. Her experience allowed her to collaborate with leaders, staff, and healthcare providers in both the profit and nonprofit sectors.

Miller shared her experiences about advocating for a compact licensing agreement with Sunstar Ebrief.

  1. What motivated you to become a dental hygienist?

I started in the profession as a dental assistant. I loved working with people, the care that was given, and the improvements that were seen not only physically but emotionally in patients. The power of a smile is life changing. I decided to go back to school to become a dental hygienist to provide another level of care. I loved seeing people’s lives transformed and overall health improve due to the care I was providing.

  1. What type of work do you do now for the state of Iowa?

I started out as a dental hygienist for the Department of Corrections at the Iowa Correctional Institute for Women. I provided direct care and was responsible for the dental department at our facility. I was recently promoted to the position of Training Specialist. I work with staff as they begin their journey in a corrections career. I also provide ongoing training to current employees, schedule courses/classes, and keep detailed records of the training that takes place. as well as provide ongoing training to current employees. My dental hygiene career prepared me well for this position. Communication, time management, documentation, education, and organization are skills often held by dental hygienists that are also applicable to other careers.

  1. What is a license compact and why is it important?

The Dentist and Dental Hygienist Compact is an interstate agreement that provides a pathway through which dentists and dental hygienists can obtain authorization to practice in states where they are not licensed. To join, a state must enact the compact model legislation via a state’s legislative process. Compacts are constitutionally authorized and legally binding. The importance of this legislation is to allow for ease of license portability from state to state. For dental hygienists who have moved due to a spouse’s occupation, family connections, or for any reason, this is a HUGE win. If you have ever had to seek a license from another state, there could be a laundry list of requirements that varies from state to state in order to obtain licensure. This is also a costly endeavor, upwards of $1,000 or more. The idea that you cross a state line and no longer remember your education or skills is preposterous. By enacting the dental compact portability, it simplifies the experience of changing states and expands employment opportunities for new markets. It will also reduce the burden of maintaining multiple licenses.

  1. What was required to get this passed in Iowa?

This was a joint venture between the Council of State Governments, United States Department of Defense, American Dental Hygienists’ Association, and American Dental Association. Educating the legislators in Iowa was key. Many of our elected officials have no idea about licensure. Countless times we are lumped in with other professional licensees, where the assumption is made that we are like other healthcare providers and portability is not an issue. Discussing the benefits of eliminating barriers and allowing for a larger workforce properly educated and licensed in another state was a driving force. I have to compliment Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds who recognized this was a win-win for providers and Iowans alike. She was determined that this bill would be signed as soon as possible once it had passed the House and Senate to not only be the first, but to model the way for other states to follow suit.

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