As dental hygienists, we need to expand our networks of expertise and integrate the interprofessional model into our work so that we can improve patient care and the health-care system. Fortunately, there are many ways to integrate this interprofessional approach into our work, such as education, clinical work, or through organizations.
In part one of this series, I discussed the potential benefits of the interprofessional outlook on patient treatment and the core interprofessional competencies that interprofessional education collaborative (IPEC) uses. In part two, I will look at three hygienists who have taken an interprofessional approach through clinical care and education.
The clinical approach: Sheba Jones, RDH
Sheba Jones, RDH, is an affiliated practice dental hygienist in one of the largest hospital networks in the country. She operates in three different interprofessional roles in Arizona. Her first role is in the oral health department, where she offers outreach to the underserved through community clinics. These clinics provide dental hygiene services to people who are more than 200% below the poverty level.
Her second role is as a hygienist with the Teeth First initiative. She goes into pediatric offices to screen babies for developmental issues, infections, or severe abscesses, and into OB/GYN offices to screen pregnant women for oral cancer and to offer them dental care management. Finally, Sheba is an affiliate dental hygienist in the ICU of St. Joseph’s Hospital. She takes dental students into the renowned Barrow Neurological Institute to provide oral care to patients with advanced airway issues, such as endotracheal tubes or tracheostomies.
Sheba’s roles use core competencies one through three of IPEC: (1) working in a service-oriented team environment where she interacts with members of the medical community to take care of patient health (CC1), (2) assessing the needs of her clients and communicating with her integrated team to suggest the best therapies (CC2), and (3) communicating with patients, families, and expectant mothers as a team for the prevention and treatment of oral disease and health maintenance (CC3).
If you want to expand your career interprofessionally, Sheba advises, “Find like-minded goal partners who are interested in collaborating to create new participatory roles. Finding a champion in these institutions, such as a physician or head nurse, to advocate for your presence is very helpful.”
An educational perspective: Jasmin Haley, RDH
My interprofessional experience began at the University of Maryland, where I worked at the Plus Clinic with people with HIV. I had the opportunity to become an interprofessional team member as an educational consultant for the JACQUES initiative with the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. This is a revolutionary and highly successful program where graduate students from medicine, nursing, law, social work, dentistry, dental hygiene, and pharmacy learn together in the classroom.
Our integrated team consisted of nurses, physicians, pharmacists, dentists, lawyers, social workers, and dental hygienists. Our purpose was to educate graduate students on the interprofessional approach to working with clients living with or at risk for HIV and HCV (hepatitis C).
Through my experience with the educational consulting team, I created a curriculum for graduate students using the IPEC core competencies. I cocreated a program on how to handle trauma when treating people living with HIV, and how that impacts us professionally. I was also asked to teach persons living with HIV or who were homeless and at risk how to take care of themselves, read their blood work, and become empowered as they navigated their health in extreme poverty.
Our powerful educational team sought to educate professionals in a trauma-informed and rigorous way so that new professionals would not be scared of the disease but rather empowered to treat and share information to prevent its spread. By working with people in other professions I was able to learn about their work and how it related to persons living with HIV. This enhanced my knowledge of how to connect individuals in need to the right services (CC1).
Read more by and about Jasmin Haley, RDH:
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I became involved in interprofessional work by finding my passion and immersing myself in the community. I felt called to serve persons living with HIV, so I attended events that supported them. I volunteered my time and networked and built relationships with people from many different fields. Because I showed up and became a reliable source of support for individuals affiliated with the JACQUES program, I was selected to join this elite group of educators.
The strategy I suggest for interprofessional expansion is to be clear about your passion and then network and build relationships with people outside of dentistry. This will help you learn what’s out there and allow people to understand what you can contribute. My educational consultant position was the most rewarding experience of my career. I highly recommend it to all professionals because I would not be the clinician or educator I am today were it not for my interprofessional experience.
Certification and integration of dental hygiene into the medical profession: Jamie Dooley, RDH
Jamie is the founder of the National Network of Healthcare Hygienists (NNHH). She founded the NNHH to prepare dental hygienists to integrate into interprofessional care teams. Jamie explained, “I knew that the number one barrier to stepping outside your comfort zone as a hygienist is lack of confidence. Hygienists often tell me that if they had higher level oral systemic-education they would feel more confident approaching local health-care providers and hospital administrators for these roles and figuring out where their passions align with their communities' needs. That’s why we started the NNHH.”
The NNHH provides an oral-systemic educator certification that offers a broad overview of many areas of medicine. It prepares participants to become more confident speaking and collaborating with other medical providers in primary care, hospital settings, and nursing homes. The result of this program is individuals who will use all four IPEC core competencies as they’re being trained for interprofessional collaboration.
Jamie’s advice for starting an interprofessional path is to address your fears and recognize your barriers. “Once you find the gaps you can reach out and build a network of individuals or find programs that can fill it,” she said, “such as getting additional education or certifications, finding a mentor, or approaching a local business and saying, ‘Here is my experience and passion. How can I help?’”
Looking forward within the dental industry
It's up to you to expand your clinical reach and enhance your patient care by stepping out of your comfort zone and into the interprofessional field. By taking the bold step of opening your communication and participation with other health-care fields, you can help to increase the overall health of your community.
IPEC’s four core competencies are:1-2
- Competency 1: Work with individuals in other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.
- Competency 2: Use the knowledge of one’s role and those of other professionals to appropriately assess and address the health-care needs of patients and to promote and advance the health of populations.
- Competency 3: Communicate with patients, families, communities, and professionals in health and other fields in a responsive and responsible manner that supports a team approach to the promotion and maintenance of health and the prevention and treatment of disease.
- Competency 4: Apply relationship-building values and the principles of team dynamics to perform effectively in different team roles to plan, deliver, and evaluate patient-centered care and population health programs and policies that are safe, timely, efficient, effective, and equitable.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the November 2021 print edition of RDH.
- Core competencies for interprofessional collaborative practice: 2016 update. Interprofessional Education Collaborative. https://ipec.memberclicks.net/assets/2016-Update.pdf
- IPEC Core Competencies Revision, 2021-2023. Accessed July 27, 2021. https://www.ipecollaborative.org/2021-2023-core-competencies-revision
Jasmin Haley, MSDH, RDH, CDA, is an award-winning national speaker, podcaster, pro-educator, author, and biz growth strategist. She is the founder of the Breakthrough to Excellence Network. She helps women business owners create enterprises that support their vision and assists in streamlining their focus so they can scale their impact, income, and influence. Haley’s philosophy is focused on building confidence and the business structure to support your goals without sacrificing what you love most. Learn more at jasminhaley.com.