By Hanna Aronovich, CAE, Dental Assisting National Board
A well-executed strategic partnership can deliver great rewards for the organizations involved. Some of the most frequently cited benefits of these types of collaborations include:
- Reaching new customers
- Entering new markets
- Improving quality
- Enhancing visibility
- Reducing costs through shared resources and knowledge
- Sharing project expenses and risks
Certification organizations may not immediately think of the market power that collaboration can bring. When done correctly, however, collaborative relationships can allow the organizations involved to leverage their respective strengths and stakeholder reach, as well as be more impactful in fulfilling their missions.
Johnna Gueorguieva, PhD, CAE, explains that gaining access to subject matter experts is one of the top reasons to consider partnering on certification program development. “If your organization doesn’t have the in-house experts and another organization does, that could be a partnership that would be worth exploring,” she says.
Dr. Gueorguieva, who currently serves as the chief credentialing and research officer at the Dental Assisting National Board (DANB) and is a past ICE board chair and director, explains that there are degrees of collaboration that an organization can consider — from very close to more distant. “One way to collaborate at a basic level is to work with another organization on only the job analysis,” she says.
Collaborations can also be very involved, such as two organizations developing a new certification together, partnering at every stage and sharing expenses and revenues. This type of close collaboration is exactly what DANB is currently pursuing with the Organization for Safety, Asepsis and Prevention (OSAP).
Meeting the Need for Infection Control Education and Certification
Infection control has always been a critical element to ensure dental safety and public protection, but this topic has attracted national attention over the last several years, especially in recent months as the world is addressing the COVID-19 pandemic. High-profile infection control breaches can make national headlines.
DANB joined OSAP, along with several other national dental associations and with representation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), to form an Infection Control Consortium to discuss the issues. One of the major outputs of the group was the publishing of a proceedings paper that included Master Curriculum Elements for dental infection prevention and control, linked to the CDC’s “Guidelines for Infection Prevention in Dental Healthcare Settings” (2003). But OSAP, DANB and its affiliate, the DALE Foundation, knew they needed to go further.
Although there were numerous dental infection control resources available, they varied greatly in terms of quality and accuracy; there was little standardization in this area. Furthermore, dental assistants are typically delegated infection control duties, but most states do not require any education or credentialing in this area.
To address the issue, OSAP and the DALE Foundation came together to develop an online assessment-based certificate program, and OSAP and DANB joined forces to develop two certification programs — each organization bringing its unique strengths and expertise to the table.
OSAP is a leader in advocating for safe and infection-free delivery of oral healthcare, while DANB brings the certification expertise and the DALE Foundation has the technological capabilities to deliver the online educational components. DANB and the DALE Foundation also provide all administrative services for the education and certification programs. Together, these three organizations are stronger than if they would have pursued these initiatives separately.
“OSAP wanted to develop an infection control certification for several years,” OSAP Executive Director Michelle Lee, CPC, says. “We knew that DANB would be the right partner because of its credentialing expertise, having developed certification programs that are nationally accredited by the National Commission for Certifying Agencies (NCCA) and internationally accredited to the ISO/IEC 17024 Standard. And the DALE Foundation had the technology in place to build and launch the online certificate program.”
Likewise, DANB and the DALE Foundation were confident about working with OSAP. “OSAP is the leader in dental infection prevention and control,” says DANB and the DALE Foundation Executive Director Cynthia Durley, MEd, MBA. “With its nationally and internationally renowned subject matter experts, OSAP was the ideal group to collaborate with us.”
Working Together to Reach New Audiences and Make a Bigger Impact
Part of what makes the collaboration between OSAP, DANB and the DALE Foundation so strong is that the assessment-based certificate program and two certification programs are intended for all oral healthcare professionals. These programs are open to individuals who are charged with implementing infection prevention and control standards and guidelines in dental settings, and those who inspect their implementation for state regulators. These three organizations can more successfully reach these many stakeholder groups together.
The OSAP-DALE Foundation Dental Infection Prevention and Control Certificate Program, which includes two online educational courses and an online assessment, was fully launched in early March 2020. The certificate program is open to everyone and, especially in light of the COVID-19 outbreak, dental professionals are eager to gain more knowledge and expertise in this area.
“We’ve seen a tremendous initial response to the OSAP-DALE Foundation Certificate Program,” says Lee. “It’s encouraging to see so many in oral healthcare take this step to further their knowledge.”
“Within the first month alone, more than 70 oral healthcare professionals have earned the certificate — including dental assistants, dental practice managers, educators, pre-dental students, dental sales reps, consultants and more,” Durley says. “Because of our partnership with OSAP, we’re able to connect with a much larger group of professionals who might be interested in and benefit from this program.”
The next step for OSAP and DANB is to launch two certification programs: OSAP-DANB Certified in Dental Infection Prevention and Control (CDIPC) certification and OSAP-DANB Dental Industry Specialist in Dental Infection Prevention and Control (DISIPC) certification.
The CDIPC certification program is intended for dental clinicians, educators, consultants and supervisors. The DISIPC certification is intended for dental practice managers, sales representatives and other professionals who work for the companies that manufacture or distribute dental infection control products, and state regulatory board inspectors or investigators. Both certifications are expected to launch in 2021.
“These two OSAP-DANB professional certification programs will help protect the public in an even more significant way, since many different professionals within or who serve the oral healthcare community will be able to meet the eligibility requirements,” says Durley.
“This initiative is a game-changing outcome of a unique collaboration of experts,” adds Lee. “There’s nothing like this currently available in dentistry and, especially now, it is very urgently needed.”