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USI Nursing and Dental Hygiene students have been working side-by-side on the Dedication Education Units (DEU) at both Deaconess and St. Mary's hospitals in Evansville, conducting oral assessments, providing oral care and oral health education for acute care patients on the DEUs.

Nursing and dental hygiene students are grouped into pairs, where the nursing student provides a patient report to the dental hygiene student. This report includes admitting diagnosis, all of the patient’s current medications and any special accommodations that will need to be taken into account while providing care. Together, the nursing and dental hygiene students develop a patient-centered oral health care plan that includes individualized patient considerations such as medications that produce oral side effects, lab values that indicate an increased risk of gum bleeding and current medical treatments that can impact oral health, i.e., chemotherapy, etc.

Next, the students perform an oral health assessment on the patient, provide necessary daily oral care and review with the patient their oral healthcare recommendations. When necessary, medical consults are requested and the patient is given a specific referral for possible oral care needs to be addressed upon hospital discharge.

The presence of Dental Hygiene students and faculty on the units has enhanced nursing practice and improved patient outcomes. Due to this collaborative educational approach, students and medical staff have diagnosed xerostomia, oral fungal and bacterial infections, and have helped to educate patients and staff on the importance of routine oral cancer screenings. This partnership has also resulted in the DEUs stocking different evidence-based oral care products.