By Tom Fletcher
VICTORIA – The B.C. government is spending $22.2 million to fund 190 new nurse practitioner positions around the province over the next three years.
B.C. established nurse practitioner training in 2005, with a master’s degree program that allows registered nurses to take on many of the functions traditionally reserved for doctors. The health ministry says there are currently 225 nurse practitioners registered with the College of Registered Nurses of B.C., but 72 are not working in that capacity and another 30 are graduating from the program this year.
Health Minister Mike de Jong said the new program is designed to close that gap.
The positions are seen as important in shifting the health care system from an acute care model to a preventive and chronic care model that better matches the actual demand and B.C.’s aging population. The government passed legislation in 2011 to allow nurse practitioners to provide their full scope of practice, including diagnosis, prescribing drugs, ordering diagnostic tests and treating most common medical conditions.
NDP leader Adrian Dix called the program an overdue measure that he has been urging the government to do for several years.
“What the government was doing was training nurse practitioners and seeing them go the United States and go to Ontario because the government that trained them didn’t think highly enough of the program to actually have jobs here,” Dix said.
There are currently 45 nurse practitioner training positions, 15 each at the University of B.C., the University of Victoria and the University of Northern B.C.
Dr. Blair Stanley has worked with nurse practitioner Lori Verigin in Trail for the past five years.
“The experience has been transformative for me and our patients,” Stanley said. “Shared care in a fully integrated model has been liberating.”