Some college students pursuing a career as a dental hygienist in Great Falls are one step closer to having more room to learn, as an expansion of the Great Falls College MSU Dental Hygiene program is about to get underway.
According to the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics, demand for dental hygienists is projected to increase six percent, faster than the average of all other occupations, between 2019 and 2029.
To the average person, the plastic sheets hung in the Great Falls College MSU Dental Hygiene Clinic to separate work spaces may not seem problematic - but to students and staff, they're exactly why the expansion from 6,000 square feet of space to 17,000 square feet is needed.
"When the patients are next to each other and we're doing procedures that produce aerosols, there's a potential for cross-contamination between two patients. To remedy that during COVID, we have assembled all this plastic to make individual operatories. They were small to begin with, now they're even smaller,” Dental Hygiene Program Director Julie Barnwell explained.
Barnwell said the expansion will create more interaction for students and staff and more privacy for patients and allow the program to take on an additional seven students. "Inspectors will be able to come more freely into the operatory and position themselves in a way that they can provide better feedback to the students,” he said.
Construction equipment is at the college, a fence is up around the construction site and the ground is ready; construction will officially begin with a groundbreaking ceremony on Friday.
"I'm really excited,” said freshman dental hygiene student Jordan Romanchuk. She believes the expansion will make her better prepared for her future career. "We will have that one-on-one. We'll be able to ask more questions and if we do need help they're able to be right there to assist us."
Construction is expected to be complete next summer. The expansion was made possible due to the Montana Legislature allocating $4.25 million for the expansion in the state’s 2019 budget. For more information, click here to visit the GFC-MSU website.