Nurse practitioners could be of use in communities such as Clearwater that are suffering from a shortage of doctors, according to BC Nurses Union president Debra MacPherson.
The BCNU president was in Clearwater on Aug. 14 as part of a tour of the southern Interior.
“I’m surprised that they’re not used more in these communities,” she said. “I think nurse practitioners would be very helpful here.”
Clearwater presently has only one full-time permanent doctor. Having just one doctor makes it difficult to attract more physicians because of the workload they would be subjected to.
A nurse practitioner would be able to trade on call with the doctor, MacPherson said.
The nurse practitioner needs to have a doctor that he or she can consult with, but that doctor does not need to be in the same room. In fact, the doctor could be in Kamloops and the consultation done electronically.
Assisting on problems concerning overall community health such as addictions, diabetes and respiratory conditions would be other tasks that nurse practitioners would be suited for.
They also could triage patients to determine who needs to see a doctor and who does not.
A nurse practitioner is a nurse who has received additional training to bring his or her qualifications somewhere midway between a nurse and a medical doctor.
Southern Interior hospitals face ongoing staffing problems
Even though every site they visited during their tour of the souther Interior is unique, certain common themes kept cropping up, MacPherson said.
“One issue is always the same … frustration with staffing,” she said. “Nurses are doing a lot of overtime, which is leading to burnout.”
Even though the provincial health authorities have been getting six per cent increases per year, that is only catching up with the huge cutbacks done in the 1990s.
“The ministry says cuts shouldn’t be from the frontline workers, but that’s always where the cuts are,” she said.
She said that locally she had heard concerns that long term care staff was to be reduced by two positions, while two new administrators were to be hired.
This was not how the priorities should be ordered, she felt.
Nurses are often hired at the smaller centers to work part-time, but then end up working full-time hours.
MacPherson was making the tour in the BCNU’s motorhome. The vehicle is useful for member outreach, she said.
It is also used for community events such as parades, farmers markets and so on.
The back of the motorhome opens up into a stage with its own sound system.