Bulletin of Dental Education

Virginia Commonwealth University Dental Hygiene Students Participate in Interprofessional Collaboration

 Permanent link   All Posts

Ventilator associated pneumonia (VAP) continues to complicate the hospital stay of patients receiving mechanical ventilation. It is the second most common nosocomial infection in the intensive care unit (ICU) and the most common for those mechanically ventilated. Bacteria responsible for VAP accumulate and colonize on the oral mucosa as well as the dental biofilm of intubated patients. However, oral care is often insufficient in the ICU; many nurses are unaware of appropriate biofilm removal techniques and/or do not have the required armamentarium to perform oral care. As oral care is critical to patient’s dental hygiene and overall health status, it seems logical to utilize the expertise of multiple professions to ensure optimal oral care is being provided. 

VCU ICU PhotoVirginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Dentistry senior level dental hygiene and VCU nursing students were paired in four ICUs at VCU Health in an interprofessional learning experience to share skills and knowledge between the respective professions. The dental hygiene students provided oral care for intubated patients in the nursing student’s care; nursing students were able to witness their techniques and ask questions for their learning purposes. Dental hygiene students provided oral screenings to assess for mouth ulcerations, tooth brushing, tongue brushing/scraping, application of antiseptic cleanser and lip care. Nursing students were able to contribute by providing proper patient positioning and use of in-line suctioning needed. Dental hygiene students were able to observe and learn from the nursing students assessing patient comfort and sedation during the oral care. The interprofessional experience provided opportunity for dental hygiene and nursing students to gain appreciation and understanding of the roles they have in patient care and the importance of a collaborative approach in improving patient outcomes. Dental hygiene and nursing students expressed their enthusiasm for knowledge gained, as well as the importance and desire for further collaboration.

In a hospital setting, multiple professions use their expertise bedside to improve patient outcomes, however, oral health care professionals are not utilized. Dental hygienists are uniquely positioned to improve patient outcomes and reduce the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia by providing bedside oral care for patients and oral health education to family care providers. 

Before being paired with nursing students in the ICU, dental hygiene students had the opportunity to review oral care techniques for intubated patients in the nursing school simulation lab with faculty. Faculty would like the addition of joint classroom teaching sessions which highlight the importance effective oral care and its relationship to systemic health for the students so that students could then work together to provide in-services for nurses on units regarding effective mouth care and benefits of such in order to reduce the incidence of ventilator associated pneumonia and provide education pertaining to oral/systemic link of good oral health. By continuing to promote interprofessional education, dental hygiene and nursing students will learn the role of each discipline and importance of continued collaboration.

Courtesy of Tammy Swecker M.Ed., BSDH, Dental Hygiene Clinical Coordinator, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Dentistry

Published on Dec. 11, 2019

Duggan ad 2013