GRCC Program Keys On Lansing

October 20, 2004
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Community College is anxiously awaiting the next piece of legislation pertaining to the dental profession — if there is one.

Since expanding its dental program into continuing education in 2002, GRCC has found a niche in responding to scope-of-practice changes created through new Michigan laws.

In fact, the dental continuing education offerings were founded on that mission.

"The board (all accredited GRCC programs have advisory boards) had talked about this for a long time," explained Liz McCormick, director of continuing education and professional development. "When these changes happened, they began asking if there was anywhere locally that someone could go for this new skills training rather than having to drive all the way to Detroit or Ann Arbor. It was decided that if there was going to be a local offering, we wanted to be the ones to do it."

The dental continuing education component began in direct response to Public Act 368 in summer 2002. The new law allowed registered dental hygienists to administer local anesthesia after earning accreditation in that procedure from the North East Regional Board of Dental Examiners.

Recognizing the immediate demand for training, GRCC designed a class in the skill for practicing registered hygienists before the law even took effect. While a pilot program preceded the law's implementation, the first regular course offerings coincided with the new legislation.

The following year, another legislative act expanded functions for registered dental assistants. GRCC responded with a course — Expanded Function and Restorative Dentistry — for registered dental assistants looking to improve their marketability.

Now, for the third year in a row, Michigan has announced another dental office scope-of-practice change. Pertaining to both registered dental assistants and hygienists, the new law permits a dentist to delegate to a dental assistant the responsibility of monitoring the use of nitrous oxide. The measure also permits a dental hygienist to administer the anesthetic.

With little marketing, the college has seen a strong response to the new offerings. "Normally we would do some kind of direct mail piece or other marketing to let people know these are out there," McCormick said. "They filled up with just word of mouth."

Two published dates of 24 students each for the new nitrous oxide program filled up so quickly this fall that the college offered a second set to accommodate the waiting list.

According to McCormick, GRCC is still the only local source for training related to the skill sets. Kalamazoo Valley Community College offers anesthesia continuing education, but as yet no comparable nitrous oxide course. Many of the state's large dental schools, including University of Michigan and University of Detroit, offer similar programs.

GRCC has also integrated the local anesthesia training into its credit-based curriculum as a post-graduate course.

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