A principal objective of the West Virginia Institute for Community and Rural Health is to instill an understanding and appreciation of rural and primary care in health profession students. Dental and dental hygiene students are given an opportunity to become intimately involved in the day-to-day dynamics which uniquely affect the management of rural private dental practice. Experienced dental preceptors can help the students in meaningful ways by putting into daily practice those management principles they have studied in school. By example preceptors also help students observe and evaluate daily relationships with patients, staff, laboratory technicians, supply salespersons, other health professionals, and many more people in their communities.

The overall goals of the program can best be met when the dental preceptors and community coordinators involve students in as many aspects as possible of dental office management, clinical practice, and community affairs e.g., (visits to other dental offices, supply houses, laboratories, hospitals, primary care centers, community agencies, and attendance at meetings of dental societies, service clubs, schools, nursing homes, etc.)

Experiences in the preceptor's office are designed to help the dental/dental hygiene student better comprehend the totality of skills and knowledge required to conduct a dental practice successfully. Typical of the expected outcomes are:

  1. Skill development in effective working relationships with office personnel in day-to-day interactions such as hiring, dismissal, training, supervising, evaluation, and rewarding; developing interpersonal skills needed in dealing with patients, dental supply salespersons, laboratory technicians, etc.;

  2. A knowledge of critical aspects of office management such as appointment control, procedures used to maintain patient accounts, data needed and procedures used to establish fees, methods of collection and monthly practice analysis.

  3. The ability to understand differences between methods for treatment planning and case presentations in private offices and for individual patients vs. the treatment planning procedures and case presentations ordinarily presented in the dental school clinics;

  4. A comprehension of the inter-relationships between dental practice and the community at large, such as: the need for effective community organization, service agencies and voluntary groups, community funds, etc. and the dentist's role in these areas; the characteristics of communities which must be known and evaluated in determining the establishment of a practice in the area; the adequacy of dental services in the area, what limitations there may be, the availability of care for low income and handicapped people and other underserved groups, and the steps that might be taken to overcome obstacles to good dental health care and preventive services for all citizens in the community.

  5. Experience in clinical practice sufficient to enhance the student's understanding of the broad range of patient needs, and the ways in which the private practitioner interprets and helps to meet the needs of individual patients. Students who are approved to be at a community for several weeks must have the opportunity, on a regular basis, to reinforce their clinical proficiencies.

  6. Experience in interprofessional sessions in which the student develops an understanding of working together with other health professionals to meet the needs of specific patients and the community in general.