The study led by New York University’s Rory Meyers College of Nursing evaluated the effectiveness of a multi-professional education programme designed to improve healthcare students’ knowledge of children’s dental health.
Findings published in the Journal of Dental Education suggest that getting students from different fields to learn together helps improve core skills necessary for multi-disciplinary working.
The study focused on the nursing college’s Oral Health Nursing Education and Practice programme, which aims to improve collaboration between primary care services and dentists.
It involves students training to be doctors, dentists and family nurse practitioners – similar to practice nurses in the UK – working as a team to assess and advise young patients and their families.
This includes reviewing patients’ charts, taking medical and dental histories and doing an oral assessment.
The students also apply fluoride varnish to children’s teeth to help prevent tooth decay and provide education and advice on dental health to children and parents.
As part of the training they learn about the links between oral health and general health including how certain diseases or medications can affect oral health.
Over three terms more than 160 family nurse practitioner, dental and medical students took part in the programme at a New York City hospital.
Students completed surveys before and after taking part to evaluate their “interprofessional” skills.
The researchers found all students had significantly improved interprofessional competency scores after doing the training.
These demonstrated improvements in key skills needed for working with other professionals such as communication, collaboration, conflict management, teamwork and using a patient-centred approach.
“Our findings suggest that a team-based, clinical approach can be an effective strategy to help health professional students develop interprofessional competencies,” said study co-author and professor of nursing Judith Haber.