Many of you may have noticed nurse practitioners popping up in your family medicine clinics lately. If you haven’t noticed them yet, you are very likely going to notice more of them soon. The Quebec government has invested $25 million dollars to help train new nurse practitioners in Quebec. Their goal is to have at least 2,000 primary care nurse practitioners trained in Quebec by 2025. We still have a long way to go to meet this goal; there are only 428 nurse practitioners in Quebec.
So what is a nurse practitioner? Simply, they are a family doctor for healthier people. Nurse practitioners are nurses who have gone back to school and received a Master’s degree and extra medical training. They are qualified to write prescriptions for certain medications, they can send you for blood tests, x-rays, ultrasounds, and other tests, and they can do procedures like stitches.
A nurse practitioner can follow healthy people from babies to older adults for their regular check ups. They can also follow healthy pregnant women until they are 32 weeks pregnant. You will also see them in walk-in clinics because they are able to manage most of the acute issues that bring people to a walk-in clinic. If you are followed by a nurse practitioner all of your health needs are managed by the nurse practitioner much like if you had a family doctor.
Nurse practitioners are not completely alone. They work in partnership with family doctors who are there to act as the nurse practitioner’s specialist. Much like your doctor may send you to see a specialist, like a cardiologist, a nurse practitioner can “refer” to their partner physician. The nurse practitioner may discuss your case with their partner physician or, if needed, the doctor may see you for a visit.
The goal of the nurse practitioner is to help improve access to primary care. Nurse practitioners are able to help relieve the burden of the family doctors by following their own caseload. This increases the number of Quebecers who have a family doctor and it also allows family doctors to follow more complex cases.
Santé Kildare Nurse Practitioner Candidate