Dentists and Nurses Collaborate for Systemic Healthcare in Louisville Clinic

Dentistry Today


As more healthcare providers recognize the connections between oral and systemic health, the University of Louisville (UofL) Schools of Dentistry and Nursing will launch the UofL Care Partners clinical service at the dental school.

“We are making great strides to transform healthcare, and this is another example of our innovation,” said Greg Postel, MD, UofL interim president.

“UofL is among just a handful of higher education institutions in the United States implementing a dental-nursing collaborative care model clinic. We are proud to be among them,” said T. Gerard Bradley, BDS, MS, DrMedDent, dean of the UofL School of Dentistry.

“The solid future of effective healthcare will rely on interprofessional teams that best serve the public,” said Marcia J. Hern, EdD, CNS, RN, dean of the UofL School of Nursing, noting that UofL Care Partners will help create a continuity of care for patients. 

UofL Care Partners hopes to serve as an urgent care clinic for patients who need help with issues such as blood pressure or diabetes management.

“Without management of these type of health issues, patients run the risk of delaying or forgoing their dental treatment,” said Tim Daugherty, DMD, interim associate dean of clinical affairs at School of Dentistry. “If a person went under local anesthetic for a dental procedure and had uncontrolled diabetes, their insulin levels could drop, leading to life-threatening problems.”  

In 2016, the School of Dentistry wrote nearly 900 medical consults for patients who needed to follow up with a provider before progressing through their dental treatment. Almost 40% of these patients failed to complete the follow-up required for their oral health treatment. 

Expected to be completed in early 2018, renovation will convert an area in the School of Dentistry into a patient room. Dental patients, along with others including faculty and staff, can make an appointment with a UofL Care Partners part-time nurse practitioner.

In addition to offering chronic disease management, patients can have basic lab work completed or be seen for an acute illness. A nurse practitioner also will work with patients to connect them with a primary care provider or specialist if needed. 

UofL Care Partners is an outgrowth of an existing relationship between the Schools of Dentistry and Nursing that jointly received a $1.1 million grant from the United States Department of Health and Human Services Resources and Services Administration in 2012.

The grant supported an educational initiative for nursing and dental students to enhance communication between their professions and develop best practices in patient assessment, consultation, and management to improve the overall health of patients. 

Also, DMD students learn from a nurse practitioner who instructs them on completing medical history forms required for all new dental patients as part of admission. Dental students learn how to evaluate whether a patient is healthy enough to complete an exam and subsequent treatment as well.

“This initiative is a creative demonstration of how nurse practitioners are meeting the needs of patients where they are and builds on best practices and success at the School of Nursing’s other clinical operation, the Kentucky Racing Health Service Center,” said Whitney Nash, PhD, APRN, FAANP, associate dean of practice and service at the School of Nursing.

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