Health Minister John Haggie’s recent comments about addressing gaps in the province’s health-care delivery by using nurse practitioners working to their full scope has, unfortunately, become a debate that pits doctors against nurse practitioners.
This attack has led to many untruths about nurse practitioner practice in the media and it’s time to set the story straight and to redirect the conversation to the vital issue at hand: how do we, as a province, ensure that every citizen has timely access to competent and compassionate primary health care in the context of a geographically disperse province, an aging population and a growing number of people living in the community with complex care needs?
Nurse practitioners are prepared and ready to help address these challenges. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education and clinical preparation, who work collaboratively with other members of the health-care team to assess health conditions/diseases, diagnose, treat and manage health-care needs. Nurse practitioners can prescribe medication, order tests and imaging, make referrals to specialists, etc. Furthermore, nurse practitioners have the knowledge and skills to effectively contribute to the management of chronic illnesses, like obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. Nurse practitioners are already working in many areas of the health-care system and in communities throughout Newfoundland and Labrador, providing a broad range of health services to clients and their families. In some areas, they are the sole primary health-care provider.
Nurse practitioners practice autonomously within their legislated scope of practice, and are regulated and licensed by the Association of Registered Nurses of Newfoundland and Labrador (ARNNL). Studies conducted on the nurse practitioner role in Canada demonstrate a high degree of client satisfaction with the care provided by nurse practitioners. Client feedback indicated that nurse practitioners involve clients in care decisions, improve access to primary health care and reduce pressure on the health-care system. An ARNNL public survey revealed that 82 per cent of respondents would like to see more nurse practitioners in communities and 85 per cent of patients who received care from a nurse practitioner rated the care to be excellent.
It is time to broaden the dialogue of health-care delivery in this province to include the unique and valuable contributions of many different professions working at maximum scope to enhance health-care delivery in a way that is safe, efficient and fiscally responsible. The focus of the conversation should not be on the provider, but rather the provision of care with the patient at the centre of the conversation.
Ellisa Sinnicks-House, nurse practitioner
On behalf of the Newfoundland & Labrador Nurse Practitioner Association