The Dentist Magazine.

Exchange of ideas on inter-professional learning in dentistry

Published: 21/06/2017

Three educators and clinicians from Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry have visited New York University College of Dentistry to exchange ideas and experiences of inter-professional learning – where students training to be dentists do so side-by-side with other dental professional students (such as dental nurses, dental therapists and hygienists) and other healthcare professionals such as nurses.

Jane Collingwood and Clare McIlwaine went to New York University College of Dentistry thanks to a Santander Internationalisation Scholarship, a grant awarded to help build collaborative relationships for research, skill sharing and career development among Santander universities.

Their colleague, Louise Belfield, travelled separately and joined Jane and Clare at NYU to complete the multi-professional team and gain experience of integrating clinical and basic science education among multiple undergraduate programmes.

Both the University of Plymouth and New York University have renowned reputations for inter-professional learning. Plymouth leads the way in a completely new and innovative programme which trains future dentists and dental therapists and hygienists side-by-side from the very start of their programmes. Jane and Clare shared experiences and learned best practice with their colleagues in New York. They are also hopeful that this visit will lead to joint projects in the future.

Jane commented, “There is a growing acknowledgement that oral health is part of overall health and so we need to take a whole body approach to healthcare delivery. At NYU they have been developing inter-professional education between students of dentistry, nursing and other professionals for a number of years. We could see how this could create healthcare professionals who were not only confident in their own roles, but could also liaise with each other to create a patient-centred care environment. There was a lot we could bring back to Plymouth – especially given the breadth of health professions courses at this university – but it was also heartening to see where our trailblazing approach to the integration of dental and dental therapy and hygiene students could give inspiration to New York University in the future.”

Dental therapy is a relatively new profession in the US and has recently been utilised in Alaska with the hope that this will become the case further across the US. Here in the UK, dental therapists are beginning to be recognised as an integral member of the dental team and are trained across UK dental schools.

What was common between the two countries were the barriers within the profession to inter-professional activity; Clare said, “We believe that training dental health professionals alongside one another enhances individual roles and we found that this was the case with NYU’s inter-professional education model too”.

Louise added, “I was particularly interested in how NYU incorporated the life science components of their courses across the integrated programmes. It was inspiring to see how they used their extensive research record to inform their teaching.”

Clare, Jane and Louise were all full of praise for the welcome they received from colleagues at New York University, and for the visits and tours they put together – “more than we expected”. Clare and Jane are also grateful to Santander for funding their trip.

Professor Christopher Tredwin, head of Plymouth University Peninsula School of Dentistry, commented, “Clare, Jane and Louise have brought a wealth of information and experience back with them from New York, all of which will help us to develop our offering still further. It was heartening to hear that our colleagues at New York University were also impressed by what we have achieved so far. As a school we constantly strive to forge relationships with colleagues around the world and the potential for collaborative working with New York University is immense.”

Stephen Thatcher, university relationship branch manager at Santander Universities, added, “We are very proud of Jane and Clare, our Santander Scholar recipients, for their innovative work both locally and internationally. It’s great to see them deepening university relationships and actively collaborating with New York University; these values are what Santander are very passionate about. If you also share these values and would like an international experience like Jane and Clare, you will be able to apply to become a 2018 Santander Scholar later this year.”