Meet Cynthia An Inspiring Example of Oral Health Integration at Cooper University HospitalFeb 10, 2023
Meet Cynthia Scott, CDA, RDH, PHDH, COSE. She is a Healthcare Hygienist with Heart, holds a Practicum Level Certificate in Oral Systemic Education and is enrolled in the Oncology Certificate Program. She is a proud lifetime Member of NNHH and was kind enough to let us interview her today, before the opening of the Integrated Dental Clinic she is helping to develop at Cooper University Hospital in Camden, NJ.
What type of setting do you currently work in? Are you integrated in any way, or do you collaborate with any medical providers?
I work with a hospital-based HIV, Infectious Disease and Addiction program. Dental services are being added to the department based on clients' needs and difficulty accessing care. Our main patients will be from the program, with intent to reach out to include other hospital departments, such as our M.D. Anderson Cancer Center.
What type of work do you do?
I will be continuing with the administrative and policy aspect until our doors are open in January for clinical dental services. When our facility opens in January, I will be providing full hygiene services for our program patients. Many of these patients will come with complex medical conditions and extensive dental needs. We will be a fully integrated program with direct connections to all of our program services.
What did you choose for your Oral Systemic Educator Certificate Program Capstone Project? How did that help your community or deepen your learning?
For my Capstone Project, I provided dental screenings and education at a health center through my previous position. For my Practicum, I focused on the administration and medical-dental integration, policies and procedures and patient education of our existing patient base in the medical setting.
What demographic tugs at your heart strings?
The underserved patients in Camden, NJ have been the most rewarding patient base in my varied career. They have the highest amount of dental need, and truly appreciate quality, caring dentistry. I am so beyond grateful to be able to work with this patient base in this setting and move towards value-based care in a medically integrated program. Cancer care really gets me emotional, though. I have seen so many patients AFTER their cancer treatment, trying to piece their oral health back together, and it is maddening to know it doesn't have to be this way. I am very much looking forward to the Oncology Certification through NNHH, and hope to use it as a springboard to implement early intervention with our hospitals' cancer care center.
Do you have a personal story attached to that?
There are some specific patients, of course. Some were so rewarding, traumatized by previous bad dental experiences and overwhelmed with the amount of care they needed. Guiding them through successful treatment is beyond rewarding.
What type of role / job description do you dream of?
For my present position, my goal is to implement a truly preventive program with our cancer center. Personally, my long-term career goal would be to work with a medically integrated program in an underserved rural area.
Why did you enroll in the Oral Systemic Educator Certificate Program?
I was so excited to find this program, I could not wait to sign up! I was working with a residency program attached to a hospital system, but not integrated. I knew there was so much more I could do - and NNHH knows it, too!
How did it help you do your current job better? How did you implement what you learned? What kind of responses did you get from co-workers or patients?
My membership and what I've learned through this organization made the difference in getting my current position. It was definitely what put me over-the-top as a candidate. I have been able to direct my healthcare/non-dental supervisors to resources and information that they were unaware of, and really been able to spearhead a collaborative mindset. This has been of great value as we add staff that do not have medical related experiences.
What was the main benefit for you?
Knowing that there is a segment of dental hygiene that gets it; that knows oral health is so much more than a productive hygiene department in a private dental practice. To have a group of hygienists supporting this is huge. I think dentistry as a whole is reluctant to embrace medical-dental integration, but healthcare is beginning to see the need, and implement some programs like the one I work with. These programs will need hygienists with the mindset and knowledge gained through this type of certification and network. NNHH is really the only place to prepare you thoroughly for these types of roles.
How did it help you gain confidence collaborating?
The structure of the program, with a certificate and network behind it, is a definite confidence builder; being a part of it is invaluable.
What frustrates you about the current legal structure of dental hygiene?
The varied practice acts and state limitations on how we can implement what we learn in this course is a real issue. For example, in my state, I can train a medical assistant or physician to apply fluoride in a medical setting, but I cannot apply it myself! I’ve been applying it in a dental setting my whole career.
What solution do you propose?
That the American Dental Hygiene Associations in each state push for the legislature to be changed to allow us to be supervised by a medical provider. Changing this small supervision guideline will only increase access to care and dental referrals. We’ve proven for a century now that we are safe, preventive care experts in the realm of oral health. We need to be able to perform at the top of our scope of practice inside medical systems.
What would you say to hygienists considering the program?
I would say to do it! Get the OSE Certificate and set yourself apart. Find "another way" to practice dental hygiene. Find the positions, create the positions and contribute to the mindset that you can't be healthy without oral health.
Connect with Cynthia Scott CDA, RDH, PHDH, COSE at [email protected]