Meet Susie! A Duly Licensed RDH & Clinical Nurse Specialist

May 02, 2023

Meet Susie Keepper, MSN, APRN, AGCNS-BC, RDH. She is a Healthcare Hygienist & Clinical Nurse Specialist with Heart who holds multiple licenses in multiple states, and is a proud member of National Network of Healthcare Hygienists.


Susie was a dental assistant for 14 years before attending college. She was going through a divorce when a hygienist pulled her aside and said “You can’t make it on your own without an education.” She started at a local college taking one class at a time to "test the waters" because she felt she was not smart enough (which makes her laugh now). 


She started out as an associate degree nurse, but some bad experiences caused her to rethink her decision. She recalls, “I called the hygienist who talked me into going to college and she suggested I apply to hygiene school. Monday, I picked up the phone and called Missouri Southern State University (MSSU), Joplin, MO and applied. I graduated from MSSU in 1998 and practiced clinical hygiene 40 hours a week for the next 15 years before completely burning out.”


At that time, she thought back to her initial nursing career and decided to return to college, hoping for a different result. She graduated from Central Methodist University (CMU) with her Bachelors in Nursing (BSN) in 2014, but wanted more than to be a floor nurse. She ended up moving to Oklahoma and received her Masters in Nursing-Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) degree in 2018. While getting her masters degree, she had a professor who encouraged her to continue her nursing education. She is now in the process of receiving her Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP), as she has a passion for research, and implementation. Susie will graduate with her DNP in May 2024!


Of course, as an RDH as well, Susie definitely knows oral-systemic care is not a part of a hospital's existing standard of care. Being duly licensed, She possesses an unique set of skills, expertise, knowledge, and perspective she can bring into the administrative arena. She states, 

“What I have found is that hospital leadership/stakeholders do not understand the financial and educational value an RDH can bring. I propose an RDH in leadership not as someone who uses their scalers in the hospital. That is impracticable. I will deliver a presentation on the role of an RDH in the hospital setting at this year's ADHA conference in Chicago. It is called Oral Health Champion. I advocate for advancing dental hygiene and moving us into healthcare systems just like NNHH does.”


Susie’s advice to someone who wants to continue their education is to think outside the box:

“While nursing is fine, another choice is respiratory therapy (RT). Why not an RDH, RN, and RT?  The more degrees/credentials you have in life, the more options you have, and people will listen to you. Be innovative!”


Susie is happy to see certificate programs in areas of medicine for RDHs. She thinks it is sad that some hospital entities do not understand or recognize our value, and that most state dental boards do not allow RDHs to work in hospital settings. She is currently addressing that issue in Oklahoma. She can get around the legislation because she is a licensed nurse and hygienist. She is working (on a volunteer basis) with a couple of hospitals to implement an RDH in the ICU or Med-surg floors to reduce hospital-acquired pneumonia (HAP) and Central-Line Associated Bloodstream Infection (CLABSI). 


When it comes to joining NNHH Susie says, “Do it! I am a Founding Member. I have done the research and the RDH role keeps evolving. This is a very exciting time to be an RDH and a Healthcare Hygienist. We each must do our part to see our profession continue to expand.”

Connect with Susie via email at [email protected] 


Are you an RDH interested in dental/medical integration and collaboration? Distinguish yourself as a specialist in your field while earning AGD/PACE CE. All of our programs are unbiased and evidence-based to focus solely on high-quality continuing education you can use immediately in a clinical, non-clinical or hybrid role.