Nurse practitioners: The time is now: A solution to improving access and reducing wait times in Canada
The conclusions reached by federal, provincial and territorial governments have led to a focus on primary health care renewal and the need to address wait times and access to quality care for all Canadians. There has been a growing emphasis by all levels of government on: promoting the broader determinants of health; balancing institutional care with illness prevention and health promotion; funding early intervention strategies that focus on maintaining wellness; and examining ways and means to effectively utilize human resources, especially nurses and physicians.
To be effective, health services require the expertise of a range of health professionals, including nurse practitioners. The NP role is distinct from the roles of other health professionals. In many ways, the NP supplements and complements other roles. Thus the implementation of the NP role in Canada may be viewed as one means of improving access to health services.
NPs are registered nurses with additional educational preparation and experience who possess and demonstrate the competencies to autonomously diagnose, order and interpret diagnostic tests, prescribe pharmaceuticals and perform specific procedures within their legislated scope of practice. Working as part of a collaborative team, NPs can alleviate pressures on the health system and provide patients with early interventions and wellness strategies; thereby contributing to improved access to health services and a reduction in wait times.