Part 2 of this article: People-centered care through the interprofessional model
As humans, we are at the mercy of threats to our health every moment we exist.
The majority of the health conditions affecting our population are rooted in numerous factors of causation. Lifestyle, environment, genetics, and behavior all weave together in a complex tapestry of interactions that create our state of health and susceptibility to illness.
The multifactorial illnesses we face cannot be addressed by a single segment of the health-care system—just as they often don’t arise from a single factor.
We need holistic care and dental health education that is focused on multidisciplinary collaborations to improve patient health. However, the majority of the health-care system continues to ignore an interprofessional approach that would allow us to more effectively treat illness and boost wellness.
My experience in an interprofessional model
My interprofessional education began during my work with people living with HIV at the PLUS Clinic at the University of Maryland and continued as I worked as an educational consultant for the Preparing the Future Program with University of Maryland School of Medicine.
In these programs, I was part of a truly interprofessional education team made up of social workers, physicians, lawyers, pharmacists, nurses, dentists, dental hygienists, and other consumers. We worked together to educate future professionals on how to effectively treat people living with HIV and hepatitis C.
These firsthand experiences allowed me to expand my own knowledge in the world of medicine, social work, pharmacy, law, and nursing. I learned that looking at our patients' health through one lens is a disservice to them.
Due to interprofessional education’s vast potential to create out-of-the-box thinking and a holistic approach to health, I believe it should be mandatory for every dental professional as part of their preparation and training.
By bringing this thinking and varied educational experiences into the dental world, we will be better able to help our patients and connect them with other experts who can assist them in caring for their total well-being.
What interprofessional collaborative practice means
Historically dentistry has been linear and focused on a single aspect of health: the oral cavity, and how the oral cavity is related to systemic disease.
However, the father of dental hygiene, Dr. Alfred C. Fones, had something greater in mind for dental hygienists of his era. He envisioned hygienists being integrated with the larger society through social work and medical practices in schools, hospitals, and beyond.1
His vision was dentistry as a true interprofessional collaborative practice.1
To get back to this original vision of dental hygiene and health, we need to expand our scope of care and incorporate interprofessional education into dental hygiene education daily practice within the office.
According to the World Healthcare Organization (WHO) Framework for Action on Interprofessional Education Collaborative Practice, interprofessional education is “when students from two or more professions learn about, from, and with each other to enable effective collaboration and improve health outcomes.”2
This type of education allows students to experience the benefits and dynamics of collaborative work and is essential to improving our health-care systems and innovating new treatment strategies.2
Participating and learning in an environment where sharing knowledge and specialized skills is encouraged can lead to the resolution of complex health issues.3 Interprofessional environments also engender esteem, cooperation, and openness toward other team members.3
The Interprofessional Education Collaborative (IPEC) was created in 2009 by six national associations of schools of health professions coming together in a collective devoted to the promotion of interprofessional education.4 IPEC’s goal is to prepare future health professionals to provide first-class team-based care to their patients and improve the health outcomes of the public.4
Core competencies of interprofessional education
IPEC’s group has created the gold standard for all of us in the health-care industry.
Promoting interprofessional education and identifying the core competencies necessary for interprofessional practice have provided the dental community with a map for what is necessary for top-notch health professional education.4
The core competencies are patient-centered and connected to educational techniques and have been fundamental to framing and driving the conversation nationally around interprofessional education.
These are IPEC’s four core competencies:4
- Competency 1: Work with individuals of other professions to maintain a climate of mutual respect and shared values.
- Competency 2: Use the knowledge of one’s own role and those of other professions 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.
In May 2021, IPEC announced a plan of review and revision for the 2016 IPEC Core Competencies (CC) which will result in an update in early 2023.5
Why we should reach beyond the present
As we enter a new era of dental hygiene practice, we need to prioritize interprofessional education that results in collaborative treatment and community-focused care in our profession.
We can begin creating this environment in our practices by beginning conversations with local programs outside of dentistry and looking for ways to partner up with them, providing medical resources beyond just those of the dental industry when necessary, or attending conferences outside of dentistry.
When we expand our minds and outlook, we will better support our patients—which is always our ultimate goal.
Editor's note: This article appeared in the October 2021 print edition of RDH.