Dental and Nursing Students Collaborate in Systemic Health Education

Dentistry Today


Fourth-year dental students and final-year family and pediatric nurse practitioner students are working together to learn assessments of the oral cavity and analysis of blood pressure and body mass index in pediatric patients at Indiana University’s School of Dentistry and School of Nursing.

As a means to diagnose chronic conditions such as dental cavities, hypertension, and obesity in children, the students are learning about the relationship between oral and systemic health. The program was developed in response to dentists and nurse practitioners being asked to expand their respective scopes of practice.

Two members of the dental school faculty, Joan Kowolik, DDS, and Richard Jackson, DMD, and two members of the nursing school faculty, Kathleen Kent and Carol Clark, developed the experiential learning opportunity with support from the Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis Center for Teaching and Learning.

The 69 participating students were divided into teams of one dental student and one nurse practitioner student who collaborated to assess the oral cavity, blood pressure, and body mass index in a group of children who volunteered to be examined. The unique aspect of these teams was that they students taught each other with minimal faculty intervention.

The students reported feeling that the came away from the experience with new clinical skills and a better understanding of the work performed by the other profession. They also expressed a desire for an expansion of this activity to encompass further opportunities to learn from one another as part of their formal curriculum.

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