“Primary care is a team sport, we can’t do it alone” Sarah Jesshope, NP(F), MN.
Lately, you may have seen a lot of news about the family doctor shortage, and you may have come face to face with it when trying to find a doctor or book an appointment.
Not being able to see a doctor when something is wrong is extremely frustrating, and we’re doing everything we can to get the provincial government to tackle this.
But when it comes to the healthcare system, there are far more players than just doctors and patients. Nurse practitioners (NPs), medical office assistants, registered nurses, and allied healthcare professionals are all an integral part of patient-centred primary care.
Although we constantly hear about the family doctor shortage in British Columbia, the main problem is actually access. The way the healthcare system currently works doesn’t allow doctors to see as many patients, because much of their time is taken up with the administrative work of running a practice.
The community health centre model is an optimal approach to dealing with barriers to access and to improve the patient experience and health outcomes. It would ensure that a diverse team of healthcare professionals work under the same roof, such as NPs, PAs, Registered Nurses, Licensed Practical Nurses, psychologists, social workers, and physical therapists, to make referrals more efficient and ensure patients get the specific care they need, as soon as possible. Nurse practitioners are an essential part of that model, as they can take on patients just like family doctors.
While family doctors are constantly discussed in the media and in the legislature, it’s important to remember that they are not the only healthcare professionals involved in this issue.
So, what is a nurse practitioner? They are advanced practice nurses educated at a Masters level with advanced training, who work as primary care providers.They assess, diagnose, and treat acute (short-term), chronic (on-going) and complex health problems, often in team-based care contexts. NPs refer to specialists; order imaging, bloodwork, and specialized tests; prescribe medical and psychosocial treatments; prescribe medications and write orders to be carried out by other healthcare providers; complete disability and extended health benefits forms; and work in acute, primary, and residential settings.
For example, you may see a nurse practitioner for an issue with your blood pressure. They may order blood tests, which could be completed close to the community care centre. Then, your nurse practitioner would review your results and could diagnose you and prescribe treatment. In another example, you might see a nurse practitioner with an injured wrist, who would examine it, order x-rays, and then diagnose you with a fractured wrist. They would then oversee your healing, including possibly referring you to an orthopedic surgeon and/or a physiotherapist, who may also work in the same community health centre. Nurse practitioners are a vital part of our healthcare system and they need our support when it comes to healthcare reform.
At our Healthcare Town Hall earlier this month, we discussed the important role that Nurse Practitioners play in the healthcare system. We heard from Sarah Jesshope, a Nurse Practitioner and Sherri Kensall, the Board Chair of Nurses and Nurse Practitioners of BC about their experiences, and how the community healthcare model can work for patients and healthcare workers.
By expanding the use of nurse practitioners in BC, especially within the community healthcare model, we can help address the primary care access issues and get more British Columbians the care they need.