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UB receives grant to educate nurses on oral health

UB nursing students work in the clinical laboratory to practice assessment of physical signs and symptoms. Photo: Douglas Levere


Published August 15, 2013

“We are excited to join our colleagues in dental medicine to improve health and wellness in the community.”
Marsha Lewis, dean
School of Nursing

The School of Nursing has been awarded a $1,120,953 Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) Advanced Nursing Education Training Grant to enable nurse practitioners to work with dental students in interdisciplinary teams, sharing educational and practice experiences that improve oral and systemic care.

The grant is funded from July 2013 to June 2016.

The project director is Nancy Campbell-Heider, associate professor of nursing, chair of the graduate nursing department and director of the MS/doctor of nursing practice (DNP) program, who says that this year the HRSA’s request for proposals mirrored the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM) call for greater emphasis on educational programs that include interprofessional education and collaborative experiences for health care providers.

“Coincidently, two of our schools—UB nursing and dental medicine—were already discussing the increasingly compelling evidence regarding the connection between lifestyle and pathophysiological factors such as oral health, dental disease and multiple chronic conditions (MCC),” Campbell-Heider says. “Our discussions ultimately lead to the partnership between the two schools that underscores this grant.”

These collaborations will be unique experiences for advanced practice DNP students, who usually collaborate with medical doctors, says Campbell-Heider.

“Working with dentists and dental students will be a new venture.”

Marsha Lewis, dean of the School of Nursing, says she was gratified by the award because HRSA grants are extremely competitive and difficult to get, and also because she is a strong advocate for interprofessional education in the health sciences.

“Receiving the HRSA Advanced Nursing Education Training Grant offers the School of Nursing a great opportunity to collaborate with the School of Dental Medicine,” says Lewis. “We are excited to join our colleagues in dental medicine to improve health and wellness in the community.”

Why train advanced practice nurses about oral health?

Campbell-Heider says that 27 percent of Americans have more than one chronic disease and consume more than 66 percent of all health care resources. Some of these chronic conditions are related to oral health and, as recent research has demonstrated, oral diseases like periodontitis can affect the outcomes of systemic illnesses, such as diabetes and heart disease.

However, access to high quality oral health care for primary care patients is limited in rural and underserved areas, with health- and dental-provider shortages, she says.

“Just as today’s dental students are being prepared to assess their patients with MCC beyond the mouth—such as elevated blood pressure and diabetes—advanced practice nurses will be expected to assess early signs of periodontal disease in adults or apply fluoride varnish to children who lack dental care.”

In addition to Campbell-Heider, other members of the team from the School of Nursing include Tammy Austin-Ketch, Susan Bruce, Patricia Nisbet and Yvonne Scherer.

Dental faculty on the training grant are Donald Antonson, interprofessional education coordinator for the grant, associate dean for academic affairs and professor in restorative dentistry, and Patrick Anders, director of oral medicine and assistant professor of oral diagnostic sciences.

"The School of Dental Medicine is excited to collaborate with the School of Nursing on this critically important and timely study," says Antonson. "At a time when oral health has become so important in the overall health of people, having the nursing profession as an additional ally in global oral health is noteworthy."

Karen Zinnerstrom, coordinator for training and evaluation in the School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, will work with the advanced practice nursing and dental students on simulated team scenarios and other evaluations of their knowledge and interprofessional collaborative skills. Thomas Feeley, professor and chair of the Department of Communication, will serve as evaluator on the project.