Nurse practitioners taking on greater health-care role

Wayne Thibodeau
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Pilot project will see nurse practitioners as main point of contact in health system

There are currently four nurse practitioners working in the province, and three more are being recruited.

Up to 1,200 people in the greater Charlottetown area who are waiting for a doctor will soon be placed with a nurse practitioner as their main point of contact in the health-care system.

Health Minister Doug Currie announced a new, pilot project on Tuesday that will see nurse practitioners take on an independent caseload of patients while still collaborating with a family doctor for issues outside their scope of practice.

Currie says the changes, which will be rolled out early next year, should increase access to health care for all Islanders.

“It is an opportunity for us to use them to their full capacity,” said Currie.

“The focus all falls back to better access and taking pressure off the health-care system.”

There are currently four nurse practitioners working in P.E.I.

The province is hoping to recruit three more. That may further reduce the number of Islanders without a family doctor, which now stands at about 7,500 Islanders.

There are still doctor shortages in Souris, Montague and in West Prince.

The changes announced Tuesday go much further than expanding the role of nurse practitioners.

Optometrists will now be able to provide some services without a referral from a doctor.

Four types of eye care will be covered — screening for eye disease for patients with diabetes and diagnosis and treatment of dry-eye, itchy eye and painless red-eye diseases.

Some audiologists will be able to bill medicare directly, rather than billing the patient, for hearing tests done with a referral.

Nurse practitioners are experienced registered nurses with additional masters level education, who collaborate with family physicians to share patient caseload. There are currently four working in the province, and three more are being recruited.

Currie said this builds on changes already announced for pharmacists, licensed practical nurses and resident care workers.

Pharmacists now have the ability to renew prescriptions when patients are unable to see their doctor, resident care workers are working in hospitals and licensed practical nurses help administer medications and conduct health assessments.

Currie said Islanders can expect more changes as the province looks to expand the use of paramedics in the health-care system.

“This is a huge step forward,” said Currie.

P.E.I., like all other provinces, is struggling to get control of an ever-growing health-care budget.

The Island government is expected to spend nearly $550 million next year on health care alone.

“The goal of a sustainable health system is to ensure timely access to a skilled health professional appropriate for the patient’s medical needs,” said Dr. Richard Wedge, interim CEO of Health P.E.I.

“Enabling our health professionals to make the best use of their training and expertise will further help us to provide Islanders with the right care, by the right provider, and in the right place.”

wthibodeau@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/GuardianWayne

Organizations: Health PEI

Geographic location: Charlottetown, P.E.I.The, Souris West Prince.The Iceland

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Recent comments

  • Darren
    December 06, 2012 - 09:29

    I do not like this new idea. There is a place for nursing and a place for doctors. PEI needs more doctors not more nurses. This sets a bad precident . One day soon we may all be assigned to a nurse practitioner who can then refer us to a doctor. Why can't our polititions create a budget were all Islanders have a doctor?

  • Resident
    December 06, 2012 - 06:57

    Excellent decision. Next step would be to allow Pharmacists to extend prescriptions. Having an appointment with Physician for prescription refill is a waste or taxpayers money in most of the cases.

  • K. MacDonald PA
    December 05, 2012 - 21:56

    The system does need more doctors, sure, But the way we structure our healthcare needs an overhaul. NPs are especially suited for family practice and wonderful in extended care settings it really builds on their strengths from Nursing. RCWs are filling a very needed service and those cutting them down are misguided . todays RCW is so much better trained and capable than the ones of bygone days. God love em. A good Paramedic can be trained to be a PA in 2 years, we have lots of them. They would fill the role exceptionally in emergency medicine because that would play to their strengths. Do the math RN 4 years plus 2 for masters NP . Paramedic 2 years paramedic 2 years PA school. And since the training happens at medical school there is a common bond when PAs and Doctors study and learn together. Lets Build a better health care system with common sense.

  • Callie
    December 05, 2012 - 17:30

    Wow. You guys are really hard on the RCWs. You realize that they are not doing anything medical right? They are taking care of the elderly placement patients that are filling our hospital beds, and taking up time and space from the acutely ill. They are holding your vulnerable loved ones hand while the registered nurse is dealing with an emergency in the next room. They are the front line people who the patients trust. It is truly insulting to call them glorified housekeepers. They work hard, and are fully aware if their scope of practice. Registered nurses have more education and more smarts than most people give them credit for. No, they are not physicians, but they are just as important. They are the ones who perform the assessments that help the doctors make critical decisions in your medical care. They also are the ones who perform these decisions whether it be heart monitoring, NG tube insertion, etc. I really feel that people do not understand the roles of each health care provider, and what a difference each one has on the health of one individual. You really should not be speaking out about things you don't understand.

  • Gloria MacKay
    December 05, 2012 - 16:39

    Look at the detail, obviously didn't read or didn't understand to information. The article refers to 'Nurse Practitioners' who are nurses who have studied to receive a Masters Degree in Medicine. There is no reference to 'Resident Care Workers'. All health providers are valuable for the service they are trained or educated to provide. Nurse Practitioners are a valuable asset to the health system and I will be happy to have my health needs provided by a Nurse Practitioner in the absence of a Doctor.

  • ponytailjones
    December 05, 2012 - 14:42

    I'm confident that our Nurse Practitioners will be every bit as able as a regular physician to disappear into another room for 20 minutes to look up symptoms on Google.

  • Peiguy
    December 05, 2012 - 12:36

    Good to see a mid level practitioner being considered. Why was there no mention of the Physician Assistant profession also? Recognized by the Canadian Medical Association as a Mid level Practitioner. They are trained to work in a team with the Doctors to Extend that doctors level of care to more patients. NPs balk at following a Doctors direction. They are licensed as independent practitioners most places. While there are benefits to using Nurse practitioners that is a start to depleting the Nursing field of its better nurses, We don't have that many to spare. The province better be careful there because it is quite common for NPs and Doctors not to get along. This is seen in other provinces and would just cause some new problems for us. Get PAs proven to work . Did you know there are over 80,000 PAs in the states and 350 here in Canada with 4 new schools in the past few years?

  • SG
    December 05, 2012 - 12:12

    This is a Band Aid solution for a Doctor Famine on PEI. I agree NP's could provide Medical Care in the shortage of Doctors and Family Physicians. However, they are not Doctors' they do not have the years' of training that Doctors are provided. RW's NO Thank You. They are not qualifiede. I'd prefer a Paramedic. They have Medical Training. Regardless of how many NP's and other Medical Staff Family Physican's are very important and very much needed. Those who don't have a Family Physican may see several different Doctors' in during a year. Will their Medical Chart and File be updated? If a different Doctor sees a patient will he know what the last Doctor's diagnosis was? The Medications if any that were provided for the patient? Will the next Doctor who sees that patient know their Family History? Will their Medical Chart be up to date? Regardless of how many NP's we may have on PEI Family Physicians are Still Very Much Needed! Ask Alberta and Manitoba how this Pilot Program has/is working for them! I have many friends and relatives in both areas.

  • Look at the details
    December 05, 2012 - 11:39

    They didn't say that RCWs are doing anything that requires medical training. From my understanding they will be doing some of the work LPNs used to do, like bathing patients, taking them to the washroom, vital signs etc. None of this requires extensive medical training. Nurses learn how to take vital signs in the first month of classes and it takes a few days of practice to do it accurately.

  • Gloria MacKay
    December 05, 2012 - 11:32

    This is great news. Wonderful to see good news reported. Merry Christmas to all.

  • what?
    December 05, 2012 - 11:28

    Did I miss something here?How does having nursew practioners reduce the number of islanders without doctors? They may see a NP but they still won't have a doctor.

  • Bernie
    December 05, 2012 - 11:14

    I love my NP.... would also like to see NP put in Emergency to deal with the minor issues.

  • Bette
    December 05, 2012 - 10:43

    Using Nurse Practitioners within a medical practice (or an ER) is part of the fundamental principal of the Collaborative Care Model. This is the model Health PEI promised to bring to our province as a measure not only to reduce costs but to increase patient access to front line health care. But NP's, on their own, cannot deal with the complexities of multiple chronic health conditions that many orphan patients suffer from. Doug Currie says that the NP's will be collaborating with family doctors--which ones?? Where are the GP's going to come from to assist the Nurse Practitioners? Will they be assigned from the current doctors? Will there be a new recruit? This article leaves more questions than it provides answers.

  • Placement
    December 05, 2012 - 09:20

    Would love to see NPs working at the hospital. They could treat the minor things that are not really emergencies.

    • Marie
      December 05, 2012 - 09:34

      Have always agreed that nurse's should be allowed more responsibility. Their intense training and experience could handle a lot of the "don't really need a doctor" cases which would, in turn, free up doctors for the serious stuff. Still against this resident care worker idea....NO PROPER MEDICAL TRAINING... unionized housekeepers... at best

    • Jeff Jardine
      December 05, 2012 - 14:21

      We could go even further if the gov't would allow us as pharmacists to do all of the things proposed to the gov't in our expanding scope of practice like other provinces. In other provinces they do full med reviews as well as give injections and also alter doses of medications or drug of the same type etc. It would also be of great assistance if we could prescribe a small approved list of meds so patients should not have to burden doctors like other provinces as well

  • Marie
    December 05, 2012 - 08:45

    Could've sworn that I just read a story saying PEI has one of the top patient/new doctor match ups in Canada yet parts of the Island have NO doctors. Many seem caught up in the walk-in-clinic circle of never seeing the same doctor twice. I'll run out of the hospital on my broken leg if I see any of the resident care workers I've encountered working there!!!