A Primary Care Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a Registered Nurse in the Extended Class with advanced university education specializing in Primary Care. We care for the physical, emotional, mental and social needs of our patients. As NPs working in a family health team, we work autonomously, as well as in collaboration with family physicians and other allied health professionals, to serve a diverse population of patients. One of the benefits of working as an NP in a family health team is having access to all the allied health professionals (social worker, pharmacist and dietician. And we work collaboratively with our family physicians to consult about a patient’s specific health need that may not happen to fall within our scope of practice.
On a typical day we manage a variety of health services and see a diversity of patients, such as: a toddler for a well-child visit and immunization; a young woman who is newly pregnant for her first prenatal appointment; a teen male seeking health information to protect himself against sexually transmitted infections; a woman coming in for her annual physical; an elderly gentleman scheduled for a geriatric assessment; or a smoker who would like to enrol in our S.T.O.P. smoking cessation program.
Since 2009, the NP scope of practice has been substantially expanded. Today NPs can:
- Diagnose illnesses and injuries;
- Perform physical and routine check-ups;
- Order and interpret certain diagnostic tests;
- Provide counselling and education;
- Provide treatment for common infections and chronic conditions;
- Order procedures;
- Refer patients to other health care professionals and specialists;
- Prescribe medication with the exception of controlled substances;
- Manage chronic diseases; and,
- Order blood products and oxygen.
There are other responsibilities that NPs can perform such as treating, transferring and discharging patients from hospital, casting fractures and reducing dislocations; however, these services are not normally provided in a primary care setting such as a Family Health Team.
Our role within the family health team is complementary to that of the physicians.
When patients call for an appointment, they can choose the type of primary care professional that they want to see. Patients will often comment that they appreciate seeing an NP because of the amount of time that we are able to offer them to address all of their health concerns. NPs consciously involve patients in decisions regarding the management of this own health. Within the context of the healthcare sector, we reduce pressure on the entire system by increasing access to primary care services and preventing more serious health issues down the road. We are valued and trusted by our patients and our team as we provide quality care.