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Nursing, dentistry partnership is a win for pediatric patients


A partnership between the UIC colleges of Nursing and Dentistry will mean more children will be able to receive much-needed dental care more quickly.

UIC Nursing faculty are now providing required health screenings to children who are scheduled to undergo dental care under general anesthesia at the Illinois Children’s Healthcare Foundation Pediatric Dentistry Outpatient Care Center. Previously, parents had to obtain these clearances from their child’s primary care provider, sometimes leading to paperwork headaches and delays.

Clinical assistant professor Celeste Schultz, PhD, RN-BC, CPNP-PC, has been stationed there once a week since May, while clinical assistant professor Jacqueline Wolak Shanks, DNP, FNP-C, has recently joined the effort.

“This saves time for the families. They are able to leave the dental clinic with all [preoperative] documentation cleared and with a surgery date,” says Marcio da Fonseca, DDS, MS, head of the UIC Department of Pediatric Dentistry. “It is helping expedite the scheduling process so we can take care of the children more quickly.”

Patients travel from all over the state to UIC’s Department of Pediatric Dentistry , the largest provider of pediatric dental care in Illinois. The facility, which opened last fall within the College of Dentistry in Chicago, treats children with severe early childhood cavities. Because most of the patients are under the age of 4, they need general anesthesia to tolerate the extensive dental work.

The center sees a high volume of patients; they’ve performed more than 800 general anesthesia surgeries since September, with another 1,000 patients on the waiting list. This is because the center offers the rare combination of providing general anesthesia and accepting Medicaid patients, making it in-demand for children with severe dental needs, da Fonseca says.

Because it’s an outpatient center, the patients need to be low-risk, and pre-operative histories and physicals are important so that the patients can be “screened for anything that would add increased risk for adverse anesthetic events,” says Schultz, a pediatric nurse practitioner with 30 years of experience.

“If we identified, say a heart murmur, or a child with a paralyzed vocal cord, they should be cared for in the hospital,” she says.

The partnerships will also create meaningful clinical opportunities for nursing students, says Charles Yingling, DNP ’12, MS ’05, FNP-BC, FAANP, UIC Nursing’s associate dean for practice and partnerships.

“This collaboration with our colleagues in the College of Dentistry is a win for everyone involved,” Yingling says. “We are improving access to care for children, creating opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration between faculty, and providing interprofessional learning for dental and nursing students.”