The importance of using proper professional titles in Oral Health

As members of Te Ohu Pūniho Ora o Aotearoa - the New Zealand Oral Health Association (NZOHA), it's essential to uphold the highest standards of professionalism in our practice. One key aspect of this is the proper use of professional titles. Correctly identifying ourselves not only reflects our qualifications and scope of practice but also aligns with current Aotearoa New Zealand legislation.

The Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003 (HPCA Act) regulates health professionals in Aotearoa New Zealand. It mandates that practitioners use their appropriate titles to ensure transparency and trust with patients. Under the HPCA Act, misusing a professional title or implying qualifications one does not possess is not only unethical but also illegal. This legislation aims to protect public safety by ensuring that only qualified individuals provide health services.

For example, dental hygienists and dental therapists must use titles such as "Registered Dental Hygienist" or "Registered Dental Therapist" as per their registration with the Dental Council of New Zealand. Using these titles accurately reassures patients of our certified expertise and adherence to professional standards. Similarly, if you are an oral health therapist, it is crucial to use this specific title rather than being misidentified as a dental therapist or a dental hygienist.

Legally, if a practitioner does not call themselves by their proper title or misrepresents their qualifications, they can face serious consequences, including fines, disciplinary action by the Dental Council, and potential removal from the professional register. Such actions undermine public trust and can damage the reputation of the entire profession.

It is important to correct colleagues who continue to misidentify themselves or others. If you hear a colleague being called by an incorrect title, such as being referred to as a dental therapist or dental hygienist instead of an oral health therapist, it's vital to address this. Politely correcting these mistakes helps maintain the integrity of our professional titles and ensures clear communication with patients and colleagues.

The NZOHA encourages all members to stay informed about the HPCA Act and other relevant regulations. Regularly updating your knowledge about legislative changes ensures compliance and reinforces our commitment to professional integrity.

The correct use of professional titles is more than a formality; it's a legal requirement that underpins the trust between oral health practitioners and the public. Let us all strive to maintain the integrity and reputation of our profession by adhering to these standards and correcting any misidentifications promptly.

For more information, members can refer to the Health Practitioners Competence Assurance Act 2003.


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