Dental and Nursing Schools Collaborate to Improve Systemic Care

Dentistry Today


With the help of a three-year, $286,000 grant from the Florida Blue Foundation, the University of Florida (UF) College of Dentistry and College of Nursing are collaborating to improve healthcare for vulnerable populations while providing learning opportunities for students.

The Advance Innovation and Promote Solutions in the Health Care System grant will allow the College of Nursing’s community primary care practice, Archer Family Health Care, to work with the College of Dentistry’s on-campus teaching clinics. Both settings care for underserved populations, who often are the most affected by a disjointed healthcare delivery system. 

The first of its kind in Florida, the collaboration will be led by Denise Schentrup, DNP, APRN, a College of Nursing clinical associate professor and associate dean for clinical affairs, and Cesar Migliorati, DDS, MS, PhD, a College of Dentistry professor and associate dean of clinical affairs and quality.

The project will provide point-of-care service, a two-directional referral source, and communication to between both nursing and dentistry sites to solve two specific problems facing both clinics.

At the DMD teaching clinics, care often is delayed for many patients at the time of the procedure due to complex health assessments and evaluation. Patients are redirected to their primary care provider, if they have one, to obtain a clearance to be treated. Meanwhile, about 60% of Archer Family Health Care’s patients have limited access to dental treatment.

To solve these problems, an advanced registered nurse practitioner will be embedded in the College of Dentistry’s clinics to provide immediate medical assessment, treatment, and referral to primary care for dental patients as needed. Health assessments completed immediately by the nurse practitioner would allow for dental care to continue without delay.

If the nurse practitioner determines a more in depth medical consult is necessary or if patients have an untreated chronic disease, the nurse practitioners can initiate referral to a medical facility such as Archer Family Health Care. 

On the Archer Family Health Care side, a licensed clinical social worker will be hired to connect patients to the College of Dentistry for dental treatment. 

“Underprivileged populations face many difficulties in accessing medical and dental care, which prevents these individuals from achieving total body and oral health,” said Migliorati. “With this partnership, dental students will work under professional supervision with a nurse practitioner to demonstrate a new model of medical and dental care and decrease complications for patients.”

In addition to the benefits for patients, students will be part of a unique interprofessional model of practice while gaining more skills to manage medically compromised patients and how to communicate effectively with fellow healthcare professionals about their patients’ problems. 

“This grant will create a partnership that will bridge the gap for healthcare services,” said Schentrup. “It will also serve as a stepping stone for future projects between nursing and dentistry and give students the opportunity to have interprofessional clinical practice experience. Student exposure to and adoption of innovative models of care are paramount to making changes in healthcare delivery.” 

“This partnership between the UF colleges of nursing and dentistry to better treat underserved populations is an excellent example of the kind of work the Florida Blue Foundation supports,” said Susan Towler, Florida Blue Foundation vice president. “This speaks right to Florida Blue’s mission to help people and communities achieve better health.”

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