As shortage of skilled medical personnel haunts the West, ever new innovations are being attempted. A Canadian province signs up nurse practitioners.
Nurse practitioners are different from "regular" nurses because they can do some things doctors do, such as write certain prescriptions, order and receive diagnostic tests and perform minor surgical procedures, such as sutures.
The Manitoba government says is hoping to take some of the pressure off the health care system by creating 18 new positions for nurse practitioners around the province.
"They're the way of the future," said Health Minister Theresa Oswald. "They work in a collaborative way. They work in a way that they can spend extended periods of time with patients who may have complex needs - and we've seen incredible success with that."
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a registered nurse (RN) who has completed advanced education (a minimum of a master's degree) and training in the diagnosis and management of common medical conditions, including chronic illnesses. Nurse practitioners provide a broad range of health care services. They provide some of the same care provided by physicians and maintain close working relationships with physicians.
Nurse practitioners see patients of all ages. The core philosophy of the field is individualized care, it is stated. In addition to health care services, NPs conduct research and are often active in patient advocacy activities.
One of the new positions in Manitoba will be at Siloam Mission and Resource Assistance for Youth, a drop-in centre in the inner city, and will involve providing care to the homeless and street youth who might not otherwise have access to such services.
Garth Reesor, chief operating officer at Siloam Mission, said the decision to provide a nurse practitioner is a recognition that the mainstream medical system often does not meet the needs of the poor.
"This says we need to provide it where they are, in a way they understand and can relate to," he said.
Two of the other positions will cover the regions served by the Brandon, Northern Manitoba, Parklands and South Eastman health authorities. Burntwood and North Eastman will each add one nurse practitioner, as will the nursing station in Grand Rapids. Six others will work in Winnipeg.
The 18 new positions, which will cost about $1.8 million, bring to 76 the total number of provincially funded nurse practitioners working in Manitoba's community health centres, emergency rooms, clinics, personal-care homes and other health care settings.
Oswald said most of the new positions will be filled by the next graduating class, but others will have to recruited from outside the province.