News & Events

News Supporting the Future of Healthcare

By Russell Herring, DNP, FNP-BC, CSCS

I love healthcare students. When it’s an option, I’ll only allow student nurses to give my annual flu shot. Whenever I could, I precepted the student RNs in the telemetry unit. I was a graduate assistant and helped teach the undergraduate pharmacology lab. Whenever a student nurse practitioner, physician assistant or even an occasional resident physician needs patients, I’m happy to stand in the corner while they see mine. The only way we provide for the future of our extremely complicated professions, is by participating in the rearing of our own.

I won’t lie, I’ve been known to bemuse myself with students. It is mildly bemusing, but I like to think that I do this for constructive reasons.

If a nursing student is doing my flu shot I tend to scream “OW!” This is reckless and I don’t recommend you do the same, but in that moment, I am their instructor. I do this because I have a badly broken sense of humor – obviously, but also because I’ve been the ED nurse starting an IV on a combative patient while other nurses and staff attempt to hold them down. If you’ve ever been in the position to have a needle inside another human, a flu shot in the arm is very easy – I’d let either of my boys give me a flu shot. Small needle, poke, squeeze, done. The mechanical action of giving a vaccination is extremely simple. Eventually the student nurse will have to put a catheter in a vein and get it to stay there, possibly while the confused diabetic writhes and throws fists at them. I say “OW” to remind the students that they never get to jump. The patient may jump, but they have to remain calm. They don’t get to be surprised.

In nursing education, it is inevitable that we become a living pincushion at some point. I’ve had to coach students through IV starts while they probed around my arm, hunting their first vein. This isn’t my favorite thing to do, but I recognize the need.

This past Saturday, the Montana State University-Great Falls Dental Hygiene program hosted their annual “No Smile Left Behind” event inside Heritage Hall, on the MSU-GF campus. Patients were seen on a first-come, first-served basis and received a variety of dental care from the staff on hand. I had to decline when the welcome staff asked me, through broad smiles, if I was interested in an extraction. Vital signs were assessed by the nursing students before they were handed over to the dental treatment team. The nursing students found the same thing that I see every day in clinic – people are walking around with amazingly dangerous blood pressures – all over the place. We’ll talk more about that next month.

Patients who were found to have vital signs within safe parameters, were seen and treated to free cleanings or extractions. While waiting, attendees perused a diversity of health-oriented booths and displays. The student physical therapy assistants conducted “Timed Up and Go” assessments, which correlates with fall risk. The respiratory therapy students had the lungs of a smoker and a non-smoker on display (I believe they said the lungs were actually porcine), one set blackened and stiff, the other pink and stretchy. They asked if I’d like to listen to the lungs, and offered me a stethoscope. To this I said thanks, but that I get to listen to the blackened lungs in my regular job many times each week. The dental hygiene students had a booth next to ours, and were instructing attendees in flossing, brushing and the general health risks associated with chronic dental plaque, including increased risk of plaque within the coronary arteries.

I gifted the dental hygiene students a bag of Laffy Taffy. If there were ever a perfect storm for dental catastrophe (aside from methamphetamine), it has to be a sugary snack that sticks to, and pulls out, old fillings. They blushed, shook their heads, and hid the taffy behind their oversized model of teeth.

This finally gets us to the point of this month’s message – did you know that the dental hygiene students at MSU-GF need patients? Did you know they’ll examine and clean your pearly whites on the cheap? Under the guidance of an instructor, and at a reduced cost (to defray the expense of equipment and supplies) you can help provide for the education of our local dental hygiene students while providing for your own health as well?

Yes, they do kids, too!


I signed myself and my wife up for dental cleanings by the students. As a primary care provider, I have to stand on my soapbox for the benefits of preventative care. Imagine the rewards if you were to have routine cleanings, for $30 or less, while supporting the education of the next generation of healthcare professionals? My wife is an educator, so I told her she was obligated to participate in the education of others.


I’d racked my brain for a subject in March, but the “No Smile Left Behind” event hit me as the perfect opportunity speak up for other members of the healthcare community while providing the public information on an enormously beneficial resource. Visit for more information on the dental hygiene program at MSU-GF, and find the link for patient information on that page as well.

See you in April for a discussion on blood pressure or COVID-19. Till then, remember to wash your hands.

Photo of Russell Herring, DNP

Russell Herring, DNP

About Russell Herring, DNP, FNP-BC, CSCS

Russell R. Herring, DNP, joined the Great Falls Clinic in 2018 and is among the newer healthcare providers in the State of Montana. He works alongside Drs. David Engbrecht and Dr. Carey Welsh in Family Medicine at the Great Falls Clinic Northwest location. Russell specializes in diagnostic, preventive, and therapeutic healthcare and treatment plans for acute and chronic illness, and in education and guidance of patients regarding disease prevention and health promotion. He is currently accepting new patients at the Northwest Clinic, 1600 Division Road, Great Falls. For more information or to schedule an appointment, please call 406-268-1600 or visit





Meet Our Providers

Andrew Blackman, MD

Orthopedic Destination Center

Orthopedics / Orthopaedics

Eve Gerasimou, MD

Family Practice

Internal Medicine

    Have a question for us?

    If you want to contact us about a medical concern or a prescription refill, the best way to do this is by phone 1-800-421-1649.