Nurse practitioners are becoming a valued resource for bringing health care services to rural and isolated communities, says the Interior Health director of advanced nursing practice.
Donna Mendel says NPs providing school-based health care outreach services in Castlegar, Princeton, Trail, Williams Lake and Nelson has drawn positive feedback.
And it’s an initiative that could spread out wider across the health region with the recent announcement by Health Minister Adrian Dix of funding for another 200 NP positions in the province.
Mendel said the direct impact of that announcement to the NP ranks within Interior Health will be known within the next month.
“We are thrilled to see more nurse practitioners coming on stream and the public gaining a greater understanding of what they can do for their health care needs,” Mendel said.
“It has never been the intent for nurse practitioners to replace physicians, but rather to work together as a team to better deliver health care services.”
Mendel said there are about 75 NPs practicing within Interior Health currently, which she says is up considerably from five years ago.
NP Keltie Everett works with public health RN Donna Dube to offer a monthly youth clinic at the high school in Chase.
“Right now the clinic is fairly focused on sexual health, although we have done a couple of information sessions about drug awareness and building resiliency in the past year as well,” said Everett.
The confidential advice offered by a health-care professional is particularly welcome in a small town, says Grace Nakano, who provides clinics at schools in Nelson.
“Although a student may have family and friends they can talk to, they may be more comfortable talking to a health-care provides about certain issues,” Nakaro said.
Mendel says scheduling can present conflicts for students given that health clinics often parody the operating hours for schools, leaving them unable to get there before closing time.
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