Advent of nurse practitioners a bright spot in a grim situation

Posted on June 14, 2008 in Health Debates – – Advent of nurse practitioners a bright spot in a grim situation
June 14, 2008. Megan Ogilvie

Experts agree few advances in Canada’s nursing situation have been made since the Romanow report was released more than five years ago. But one bright spot is the increase in both the numbers of nurse practitioners and their scope of practice.

Ontario especially has committed to bringing nurse practitioners into the health-care system and just this year promised to fund 25 nurse practitioner-led clinics in the province. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional education in health assessment and diagnosis and who have legislative authority to treat common illnesses, order tests and prescribe drugs for patients.

Sudbury already has their clinic up and running – the first in Canada – and three more, including one in Sault Ste. Marie, will open this year. The province hopes the clinics will help get care to the 850,000 Ontarians without a family doctor.

Jane Saunders, executive director of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario, says there are now some 940 nurse practitioners in the province, up from 400 when Romanow released his report.

Sioban Nelson, dean of the Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing at the University of Toronto, agrees the mood in Ontario nursing circles is positive, particularly because of the new opportunities for nurses.

New graduates, she says, have been trained to work in teams and are eager to work in a collaborative setting, one of Romanow’s recommendations for health-care reform.

Last year, the College of Nurses of Ontario gained the authority to regulate three new specialties for nurse practitioners, including pediatrics, adult care and anesthesia. The U of T will see their first class in anesthesia start in September. Eleven schools across Ontario offer the general primary health nurse practitioner degree.

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