Univ. of Louisville nursing, dental schools to share $1M grant

A new educational initiative will have nursing and dental students at the University of Louisville collaborating to better identify and manage systemic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease that are sometimes linked to oral health.

The nursing and dentistry schools have received nearly $1.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Health Resources and Services Administration to support the project.

Adult and family nurse practitioner students and dental students will take the Introduction to Interprofessional Education course. These students also will participate in a second shared course, Integrated Health Assessment. The combined courses will better prepare nursing students to conduct oral examinations, and dental students will broaden their knowledge on how oral health is connected to overall health. Students will also gain an understanding of each discipline's roles and responsibilities.

Dental students are required to conduct a health history assessment with each new patient. If a patient has a health issue such as high blood pressure the day of the visit, dental care may be delayed and the patient referred to a primary care practitioner.

On a pilot scale, the work already is under way. Since 2011, instructor Dedra Hayden has worked two days a week at the School of Dentistry to teach students how to conduct patient health history reports. The adult and family nurse practitioner students have taken part in a rotation at the dental school to learn more about conducting oral examinations.

"As research continues to link oral health and general health, we understand the need for this type of education," said John Sauk, dean of the School of Dentistry. "Oral diseases, for example, can point to undiagnosed diabetes or poor nutrition. We know there is a correlation between a certain bacteria in the mouth and heart disease. This partnership can teach students in both disciplines how to manage oral systemic problems."

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