Bulletin of Dental Education

University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences Dental Hygiene Program Innovates During Pandemic

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The dental hygiene clinic at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences (UAMS) is moving to a new larger location in January 2021 that will provide the utmost in patient safety and facilitate student learning.

The new space will be in the Freeway Medical Building, just two miles from the main UAMS campus in Little Rock, AR. It will include 20 operatories where students can deliver patient care under faculty supervision. 

The program prepares students be effective and competent allied health professionals who can provide quality dental hygiene care to patients. It provides a stimulating environment of basic and clinic research integrated with the delivery of comprehensive health care services.

The move takes into consideration changes necessitated by safety concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. When UAMS students were sent home temporarily in March due to the pandemic, the clinic on the UAMS campus underwent construction to provide more spacing between patients, resulting in a loss of seven of the 20 operatories. 

“When the students came back, we had to run extra clinic sessions to ensure the students see the amount of patients and log the number of hours they needed,” says Claire Tucker, Ed.D., Chair and Program Director for the Dental Hygiene Program in the UAMS College of Health Professions.

Faculty members also needed to develop new ways to instruct the students. It was a challenge learning to work with technology and amend the curriculum. In-person lecture time has been replaced by pre-recorded lectures. The program began offering a COVID-19 course to help ensure patient safety.   

Dr. Tucker says students benefitted from these changes in several ways. Because there are fewer operatories, some faculty members had more time to do extra one-on-one instructional sessions with students.

“That has made a big difference,” she says. “I feel like they’re ahead of what previous students would’ve been, even though they lost weeks of clinic time. One would think they would be behind clinically, but because of our extra remediation during clinic hours, it’s really made an impact on our students.”

The UAMS Dental Hygiene Program is one of only two in Arkansas and is accredited by the Commission on Dental Accreditation. Eighty-five percent of hygienists in Arkansas graduated from the UAMS program.

“Arkansas has a lot of underserved communities when it comes to dental health,” Dr. Tucker says. “It is critical to graduate hygienists who will go back to their hometowns so we can reach a greater number of Arkansans.” 

Courtesy of Katrina Dupins, Media Relations Manager, University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences

Published on November 11, 2020

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