Role of nurse practitioners continues to expand

Interior Health initiative making an impact on health care for rural area residents.

  • Nov. 13, 2016 8:00 a.m.

Nurse practitioner checks blood pressure of senior patient

The number of Nurse Practitioners (NPs) practicing within Interior Health continues to climb thanks to a successful recruitment strategy and focused efforts to enhance primary care.

“Since their introduction in B.C. just over 10 years ago, nurse practitioners have played a vital role in health care, working in unique circumstances with an emphasis on team care,” said B.C. Health Minister Terry Lake.

“Their expertise is allowing us to support communities as a whole while also focusing on the health of key groups of patients. For example, within Interior Health there are several nurse practitioners with strong rural practice backgrounds, as well as those who specialize in working with marginalized populations.”

Seven new NPs have been hired since this summer alone. There are currently 51 NPs across Interior Health, up from 21 in 2012. These include NPs in a range of roles and communities, including casual, part-time and full-time.

Nurse practitioners support Interior Health’s efforts to shift the focus of health care from hospital to community programs and services, focusing on key populations.

This shift is happening across B.C., the country, and around the world because our population is changing. People are living longer, often have more complex medical needs, and prefer to live at home from birth to death.

Interior Health’s intent is to support people to live healthy at home and in their communities for as long as they can.

“NPs are nurses with specialized training who administer quality primary care services for patients, including those without a family doctor, or target populations, such as frail, elderly patients or those with mental health and substance use issues,” said Interior Health board chair Erwin Malzer.

Nurse practitioners work in partnership with physicians and other health-care professionals to provide quality care to people of all ages, families, groups and communities.

They are registered nurses with additional education at the Master’s level and are qualified to diagnose and treat illnesses, order tests, prescribe medications, manage, monitor and review chronic health conditions.

“Across Interior Health NPs are working in a variety of settings including residential care, partnering in care with First Nations communities, providing primary care in a number of rural communities and caring for patients in some specialty acute care programs,” said Donna Mendel, director advanced nursing practice, Interior Health.

November 13 through 19 is National Nurse Practitioner Week, a chance to celebrate the contributions of these important professionals and increase awareness about their role.

Katy McLachlan has been an NP since 2010 and joined the Enderby Health Centre this August after moving from Vancouver.

“It’s a really good position in an established, well integrated primary care practice. I see patients of all ages, from birth right through death,” she said.  “We like the small town feeling. I’ve already got my season’s pass for the local ski hill and I love seeing my patients out at the coffee shop.”

Treating the whole person is an important aspect of care for NP Angel Macdonald, who is based in the South Okanagan and works closely with local First Nations. Part of that holistic approach is working with a multi-disciplinary team.

“My practice is strongly based upon a primary care model with a multi-disciplinary team approach. My role as a nurse practitioner incorporates the advanced knowledge and preparation that I need to diagnose, prescribe medications, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and perform specific clinical procedures,” she said.

“For me nursing is about compassion and trying to understand human beings on an emotional, physical, and scientific level.”

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