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NPs to help ease physician shortage

Meadow Lake Progress Posted By John Statton

Under the Primary Health Care (PHC) model, the Prairie North Health Region (PNHR) has utilized the role of nurse practitioners (NPs).

NPs are registered nurses (RN) with additional training and experience and education.

"They are viewed as a big help to the system," said PNHR CEO David Fan, "and so the concept of nurse practitioner has been in place in the North for many years."

 They have the authority to diagnose and prescribe for a variety of conditions.

Nurse practitioner Natalie Warrington poses in her office at the Riverside Health Centre in Turtleford, Sask. on August 30. Nurse practitioners play a vital role in areas facing physician shortages. Photo by John Statton


 This allows NPs to practice and see patients independently, while consulting with physicians.

Fan said they are now beginning to be incorporated into practice environments. He said approval has been given for three NPs to work in Meadow Lake. There are currently three contract NPs working in the city.

"(NPs) will be a very big part of the Associate Clinic going forward," he said, "and hopefully we will be able to recruit them into the clinic and really be a big part of service provision in Meadow Lake."

An RN must have practiced 4,500 hours, and be in good-standing with the Saskatchewan Registered Nurse Association to become an NP.

Courses are offered at the University of Saskatchewan, through Athabasca University, and the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology.

"The challenge that we have today is the recruitment of nurse practitioners, because there's just not a whole lot of them out there," he said, and a lot of them are still in training and slowly coming out of the system."

Natalie Warrington is in her fourth year working as an NP. Her interest in the role began 25 years ago while working as an RN in Fond Du Lac, Sask., and Patuanak, Sask.

"I'd always had an interest in that," she said, "knowing that with the right skills nurses could do a lot more for patients."

Warrington works at the Riverside Health Centre in Turtleford, Sask., and has over 30 years of experience as a nurse. She has seen the advantage NPs can bring to healthcare.

"We're just another access route for patients into the healthcare system," she said.

"It's going to be, I think, one of the key ways of the future."

With positions like NPs becoming standard practice, Warrington said the PHC model gives patients the role as their own healthcare co-ordinator. Patients can benefit from a team of specialists in the PNHR rather than just physicians.

"I think there's more awareness of accessing different professionals," she said.

"Getting people more active in their healthcare."


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