Job satisfaction of dental staff in the public sector in the Northern Cape
Christiaans, Erin Jöan
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‘A satisfied worker is a happy worker’, this statement by Robbins (1998), sums up the importance of job satisfaction. Locke (1976), defined job satisfaction as the ‘positive emotional state resulting from the appraisal of one’s job and job experiences’. The Northern Cape province is the largest province in South Africa, by area. Oral health mainly focuses on primary health care and pain relief. Dental staff in the public sector are employed at district level, and not at sub-district level. This scenario requires dental staff (dentists, dental therapists, oral hygienists and dental assistants) to travel to rural areas that have working conditions that are not always optimal for dental treatment. Faced with numerous work-related challenges, it is believed that staff morale and motivation is particularly low in the province, as in the rest of South Africa in the public health sector (Howse, 2000). This research assessed the job satisfaction of dental staff in the public sector in the Northern Cape, and aims to make management aware of the need and the importance of oral health services, for staff and patients. The study found that the majority of the dental staff appear to enjoy their working environment (60%), love what their job entails (76%), and would like to continue their job in the long run (74%). Eighty percent of the participants reported that they experienced teamwork and 71% appreciated the support of their staff, which are very positive findings. However, it appears that the staff are not totally happy or satisfied with their work environment, and have identified various factors that need to be addressed to improve their job satisfaction. Seventy-four percent of the staff listed resources (human, financial, physical) as the major work-related factors that need to be addressed to improve their job satisfaction. iii The majority of the dental staff reported that the staff shortage, the poor communication with their administrator, the inadequate quantity and quality of equipment, the limited services being offered to patients, the lack of opportunities to make use of and improve their clinical skills, and their salary, are factors that need to be addressed to improve their job satisfaction. Just over half of the participants also stated that the salary they earn is not as important as the satisfaction gained from serving the public, and 80% of the participants felt that their job allows them to make a contribution to their community. Having a significant proportion of staff who feel that the salary they earn is not as important as serving their community is both interesting and praiseworthy. The dental staff seem to be giving of their best despite their current work environment, but expressed a need and willingness to deliver a more comprehensive oral health service that makes full use of their clinical skills, and that is not constrained by a lack of finances or limited treatment options. This is a positive foundation that needs to be built on to improve a service that clearly needs improving. The Department of Health of South Africa should provide adequate oral health services to the public, and should ensure that the dental staff are satisfied with their jobs. By identifying areas of concern that affect job satisfaction, these specific areas can be improved (Shugars et al, 1990). By increasing the dental staff’s job satisfaction, the staff morale can be improved. This will lead to increased productivity and quality of care (Harris et al 2008; Syptak et al, 1999). Satisfied practitioners are particularly important for a successful dental practice and the well-being of patients (Puriene et al, 2008a).