Marilyn Cortell, RDH

June 1, 2003
After working as a temporary dental hygienist for a long time, Marilyn Cortell, RDH, MS, found, all too often, that records were difficult to read.

By Ann-Marie C. DePalma

Background behind seminar

After working as a temporary dental hygienist for a long time, Marilyn Cortell, RDH, MS, found, all too often, that records were difficult to read, lacked relevant information, failed to provide the supporting documentation to a proposed treatment plan, and lacked a systematic, predictable sequence for the entries. Also, after researching complaints against doctors, dentists, and dental hygienists, she discovered that faulty records have been implicated in many malpractice and peer review settlements.

So she asks, "Are you comfortable enough with your record keeping to sign your name?" Marilyn shows course participants how to be just that, with a clinical documentation lecture of the same name. She states that a patient's clinical record may be the only detailed chronology of patient care and treatment. With the advent of the new HIPAA standards, it has become increasingly more critical for us to maintain precise clinical patient information. Her program offers insight into all aspects of patient record management.

Speaker background

Marilyn is a graduate of the dental hygiene program at Middlesex Community College in Bedford, Mass., and received her bachelor's and master's degrees in management from Lesley University in Cambridge, Mass.

She has been employed 24 years in clinical practice. She also has served in corporate dental marketing and dental hygiene education. She currently is based in New York City. Marilyn is a member of several organizations, including the National Speakers' Association. Her involvement with NSA has enabled her to develop a comfortable and upbeat lecture style.

The program

Attention to accurate record keeping and documentation must not be taken lightly, so Marilyn has designed her program to lead the dental hygienist through a systematic approach to carefully recording and maintaining patients' clinical records. Guidelines for front desk management and the use of informed consent are included in her presentation, making the program appropriate for all dental auxiliary staff.

The goals of the program are accomplished through the use of slides, handouts, group participation and case studies.

In addition, a participant attending Marilyn's program will become familiar with the legal aspects of inadequate documentation; have an enhanced understanding of where and when to utilize informed consent; and will learn to record all entries using descriptive and professional terminology.

Marilyn states that, "Documentation is a critical component of the dental hygienist's role, and it is essential that observations, assessment, treatment planning and data entry are maintained in a clear, concise, and consistent manner."

It is Marilyn's contention that lecturers and course presenters know their topic well and understand the needs of their audiences. Established goals of the course must match the course content and include information that can be immediately utilized in the workplace. This program does just that.

Program anecdotes

Marilyn thoroughly enjoys delivering her presentations, although there have been some stressful moments. Marilyn remembers a bout with laryngitis, and her audience consisted of approximately 150 participants. As the lecture progressed, her voice became more hoarse. She became nervous and worried about what to do for the second half of the session. She decided to take a break. When the audience returned and was seated, she walked around the conference room and passed the microphone around for the audience to read the slides and handouts so that her voice held up as she interjected her narrative.

Another stress-filled moment occurred while she was driving to a lecture in the midst of a severe rain and windstorm during the fall in New England. Following the directions and knowing no alternative route, she found herself in a line of cars on a road where a tree had fallen. We have all been in similar situations where we have no control, so she knew her audience would understand. She decided to wait out the process of tree removal and arrived at the lecture fifteen minutes late, with the audience on their third cup of coffee.

Marilyn says, "I was more nervous about being late than doing the components of the lecture."

Personal background

Marilyn has an active life outside of lecturing. She loves boating, spending time with her family, collecting antique picture frames and sinking herself, literally, into the sofa with a good book. A book she's read recently and one she recommends is "Stolen Lives" by Malika Oufkir.

When asked about her concerns regarding dental hygiene, she responded, "Why doesn't the general public know who we are? Isn't it time we do something about that? Perhaps if we mention the words 'licensed' or 'registered dental hygienist' two times during our conversation with clients it would increase our visibility and the public's knowledge of dental hygiene." Marilyn describes herself as energetic, articulate, and professional.

I have known Marilyn for a number of years from our work together in the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association. Her passion and enthusiasm for dental hygiene are very apparent. As one of the comments from a recent "Are You Comfortable..." program stated, "It is nice to see a seasoned dental hygienist who still feels connected with dental hygiene, and is a great speaker as well." Marilyn is connected to dental hygiene in all its aspects, and I feel privileged to be able to call her my friend.

Marilyn's program schedule for "Are You Comfortable Enough With Your Record Keeping to Sign Your Name?" has not been finalized yet. However, another program that she presents is "Let's Probe to the Heart of the Matter," which deals with the connection between periodontal disease and systemic disease. That presentation will be given October 18, 2003, in Westbrook, Conn. For more information, contact [email protected]. You can also contact Marilyn at [email protected].

Ann-Marie C. DePalma, RDH, BS is a practicing hygienist in a periodontal-implant practice.She is a graduate of the Forsyth School for Dental Hygienists, is active in the Massachusetts Dental Hygienists' Association, and is a Fellow of the Association of Dental Implant Auxilliaries and Practice Management.Ann-Marie has written articles and presents programs on dental implants, TMD, and developmental delays and can be reached at [email protected].