The Impact of a Hospital Rotation on Dental Hygiene Students' Interprofessional Identity
Background: There is a demand for integration of medicine and dentistry with emerging evidence that oral health is extrinsically linked to systemic health. It has been recognized that dental hygienists working in hospital-based care teams have the potential to improve patient well-being and show improved collaboration between providers. The success of these interprofessional healthcare teams will require dental hygienists to be prepared to work outside of the traditional clinical setting, collaborating with a variety of healthcare professionals.
Research suggests interprofessional education (IPE) in healthcare should focus on fostering the development of a dual-identity, or an interprofessional identity (IPI), concurrent to a developing professional identity. An IPI is a superordinate social identity of a professional identity, based on a widening circle of group membership that consists of more than one profession. Measuring IPI allows for educators to investigate the effectiveness of IPE interventions and determine if the educational outcomes are being met.
Methods: A pretest-posttest survey design was implemented to measure changes in University of Minnesota senior dental hygiene (DH) students’ IPI before and after an interprofessional hospital rotation. Here, students collaborated with medical students and residents on inpatient general medicine teams, were involved in pre-round meetings, participated in bedside patient rounds, performed oral assessments on patients, and developed collaborative, individualized oral care plans. Students also shadowed the hospital dental hygienist on her duties of responding to in-patient consults, triaging oral concerns, and collaborating with the medical team. IPI was measured by change in pretest-posttest scores using the Extended Professional Identity Scale (EPIS). Open-ended qualitative comments were added to the posttest, and manually coded to investigate themes and add depth to the data.
Results: The interprofessional hospital rotation resulted in a statistically significant increase in senior dental hygiene students’ total IPI, and the subcategories of IP belonging and IP commitment. Qualitative findings corroborated quantitative results, citing knowledge and experience in IPE, respect from the medical team, and inclusive behaviors as primary factors impacting their IPI.
Conclusion: An interprofessional hospital rotation has a positive impact on senior dental hygiene students IPI. Results suggest experiential IPE in hospital settings facilitate dental hygiene students’ IPI development, preparing them for future practice on interprofessional teams and in non-traditional settings. Large longitudinal studies are needed to investigate the sustainability of dental hygiene students’ IPI after graduation.