Oral Health Competencies for Physician Assistants and Nurse Practitioners







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Research that exclusively focuses on oral health competencies for physician assistant (PA) and nurse practitioner (NP) education is scarce. Purpose: A study was conducted to determine PAs’ and NPs’ perspectives and self-perceived levels of skill in performing a set of oral health competencies. Method: Following e-mail notifications of professional and educational associations and an announcement placed in Clinician Reviews, an online survey of PAs and NPs was conducted between December 2005 and February 2006. The survey listed a number of oral health competencies and asked respondents (1) whether PAs and NPs should have the competencies and (2) to rate their own competency in each area. Results: A sample of 106 PAs (46%) and 127 NPs (54%) self-selected to participate in this survey. The largest percentage of respondents (37%) had been in clinical practice 1-5 years, 24% had been in practice greater than 15 years, and 23% had been in practice 6-10 years. Thirty-five percent of the respondents listed family medicine as the area most closely resembling their practice, 12% were in education, 10% in internal medicine (specialty), 8% in internal medicine (general), and 8% in obstetrics/gynecology/ women’s health. Eighty-two percent of respondents, on average, agreed that PAs and NPs should have the competencies listed (ranging from 45% for “apply fluoride varnish” to 96% for “recognize common diseases”). For the eight competencies as a whole, 40.3% of the respondents, when asked if they felt competent in these areas, listed “competent” as their choice, while 59.7% felt “somewhat competent” or “not competent.” Conclusions: Overall, respondents agreed that the defined oral competencies were important skills for practicing PAs and NPs. On the other hand, fewer than half of the respondents felt competent in their skills in these areas. This small survey demonstrates a need for additional training of PAs and NPs in oral health care.


Medicine and Health Sciences

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