The idea of bringing New York University’s (NYU) nursing program into the College of Dentistry initially met with skepticism on both sides. In addition to the usual barriers to interprofessional education, NYU would have to overcome the fact that the Colleges of Dentistry and Nursing are more than a mile and a half apart, a significant distance given Manhattan traffic. What’s more, the already bustling dental clinic was not designed to accommodate nursing students and faculty alongside their counterparts in dentistry. The schools initiated a series of small steps; five years later, dental students have a more holistic appreciation of patient care, nursing students have a better understanding of oral health, and the faculty has gained an enhanced understanding of evidence-based practice.
NYU’s nurse faculty practice took up residence in the dental clinic, and the College of Dentistry invited nurses to show dental students how to take blood pressure readings. Both nursing and dental faculty became educated about evidence-based practice and established a group to further explore evidence-based decision-making. In the dental clinic, third- and fourth-year students took medical histories and vital signs and referred patients in need of primary care or smoking cessation advice to the nurse faculty practice. Nursing students began to learn about the diagnosis of oral conditions and the effects of medications on the mouth. Most recently, the College of Nursing has received funding to lead a national initiative to integrate oral health competencies into nursing education.
Despite numerous bumps in the road, this interprofessional initiative, which began out of the interest of individual faculty members, has blossomed into a schoolwide commitment. In fact, both nursing and dental faculty have become so comfortable with interprofessional education that they are starting to think about bringing other health professions into the mix.