When Joseph Tooman sat down for his regular oral exam at Case Western Reserve University’s dental clinic, a student dentist began examining his teeth while a nursing student checked his vital signs.
Beside Tooman sitting in the dental chair were third-year student dentist Oliver Sun and Master of Nursing student Kaylee Bray. Each gathered important oral and medical information to determine what health care Tooman needed.
Tooman, of Columbia Station, received the simultaneous dental and medical attention as part of a three-year pilot program called Collaborative Home for Oral Health, Medical Review and Health Promotion—or CHOMP, as it’s called. The program hopes to discover what benefits patients and students receive when two professions work together.
“I like the one-stop convenience,” said Tooman, who also could have opted for vaccines, blood work and other health testing while lying in the dental chair.
Another benefit for CHOMP patients: During the pilot phase, health care tests and shots are free and, as always, cutting-edge dental services are lower than general dental care.
Carol Savrin, who directs CHOMP and the Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing’s MSN Graduate Program, and Kristin Victoroff, associate dean at the Case Western Reserve University School of Dental Medicine, launched the program in February with student dentist-nurse teams working in the admitting and pediatric clinics two full days a week. Faculty and students from each school trained to learn more about each other’s profession before the program began.
CHOMP is supported by a $750,000 Health Resources and Service Administration grant to the nursing school.
Health care, now in transition, is exploring how interprofessional teams can treat patients, Victoroff explained. Dental-nursing teams are step in that direction, she said.
Early on, some dental students questioned why they had to work in teams with nursing students, said Jean Iannadrea, senior instructor in the admitting clinic. But that changed when they began working together and gained a better appreciation of each other’s knowledge and training, she said.
For example, she said, the experience has made dental students more aware of the kinds of questions to ask patients about their overall health.
After dental students rotate to another area of practice at the dental school, Savrin said they are now coming back to ask nurses to help them with patients that show signs of some major health issues and seeking their opinions on whether the patient’s physician should be called.
Once students meet a patient and take his or her oral and health histories, they meet with Iannadrea to determine next steps, including whether the patient is ready for treatment or should see a doctor. When the team proceeds, Iannadrea does an oral cancer screening, and the student takes X-rays. While films are reviewed, the student nurse provides health education. The process takes about two hours.
If this is where health care is headed, Tooman liked the team’s extra attention.