Dentistry, nursing, and medicine: a comparison of core competencies.

Andrew I. Spielman, Terry Fulmer, Elise S. Eisenberg, Michael C. Alfano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Health care, including oral health care and oral health education, is under great stress in the United States. The cost of and access to care, the cost of dental education, and a shortage of educators have led leaders in dental education, organized dentistry, and the public sector to underscore the problem. One of the proposed solutions is to find synergies and new health care and education models by building bridges among the health professions. One potential solution is being implemented at the NYU College of Dentistry (NYUCD). Dentistry and nursing are seemingly unrelated professions, and they are rarely if ever modeled together. That is about to change with the joining together of NYUCD and the Division of Nursing of the NYU Steinhardt School of Education in creating a College of Nursing within the College of Dentistry. This process has not been without controversy. Following the Division of Nursing's request to join NYUCD, and the subsequent announcement of the proposed combination by NYU in December 2004, some members of the dental profession responded by questioning the appropriateness of the merger and the similarity of the two programs. Nevertheless, substantial parallels exist in the education and practice of dentists and nurse practitioners (NP) including basic, social, and some clinical science education, practice models, research synergies, and community service. However, similarities in the core competencies of these professions have not been analyzed formally and in detail. Accordingly, the purpose of this study was to compare the core competencies of nurse practitioner and dental education programs. The results show a surprising overlap of the core competencies of the dental and nursing professions (38 percent partial or total overlap). A similar overlap with medicine also exists, albeit lower (25.4 percent). These results are notable because they demonstrate that the three health professions, independently of one another, developed very similar basic competencies and learning objectives. These data should encourage other health professions programs to seek new collaborative models for education, beyond the current silos of training, and new health care delivery systems as has been strongly recommended by the Institute of Medicine. Such collaborative education redirects health care toward providing truly interdisciplinary comprehensive primary care for patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1257-1271
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of dental education
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2005

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education
  • General Dentistry


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