NSHA is promoting the idea of collaborative family practices
In a conventional healthcare setting, physicians, nurses and other practitioners work next to one another, and even consult each other, but they do not operate as a defined unit. Where a patient begins in the cycle of care and who they see in the process is often less defined from the outset.
In contrast, patients in a collaborative family practice have access to comprehensive care from a team of healthcare professionals. That’s the message approximately 50 people were given at a Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) community conversation on collaborative family practice teams at the Wagmatcook Culture & Heritage Centre on the evening of May 1.
Collaborative teams are comprised of at least three primary health care providers with two or more professional disciplines (e.g., two family physicians and a nurse practitioner or a family practice nurse). Depending on the needs of the community, teams may include other healthcare professionals such as social workers or dieticians. The NSHA currently supports approximately 50 collaborative family practice team locations in the province.
Victoria County currently has nine family physicians, two dieticians (one in Neil’s Harbour and one between Waycobah and Wagmatcook), and one nurse practitioner shared between Wagmatcook and Baddeck. The county does not currently have a family practice nurse.
NSHA Health Services Manager for Richmond, Inverness and Victoria Network Melanie Newell says the existing combination of professionals makes a good basis for family practices in Wagmatcook and Baddeck.
Newell said they are continually working to build collaborative practice teams. The NSHA recently put out an expression of interest asking physicians, clinics and health centres within the Eastern Zone to gauge who would be interested in building a collaborative family practice team.
“In the Inverness, Richmond and Victoria County network alone, we’ve had six expressions of interest from people interested in building a team. In Victoria County, we’re currently working to put a family practice nurse in Neil’s Harbour and Baddeck. We’re also working with the Wagmatcook health centre to get them a full-time nurse practitioner.”
According to Newell, the collaborative model helps with physician recruitment.
“When we have collaborative practice teams in place, we’re finding that it can help attract and keep healthcare professionals within our community. When they have a team to come and work with, they know their clients in the community are being supported by the whole [team].”
Newell also said that collaborative practices improve overall access to healthcare while increasing the number of patients that can be seen. When a practice expands to include more expertise, it increases the capacity to serve more clients. Nurse practitioners and family practice nurses are two core roles within a collaborative practice. Both support the management of chronic disease and provide education within the team. A nurse practitioner can prescribe, order tests, diagnostics, refer patients to specialists, help manage chronic diseases. A family practice nurse can cover well women’s clinics, well baby checks, screenings, help manage chronic conditions, do blood pressure checks, immunizations and flu clinics.
A collaborative approach provides the appropriate care based on patient needs.
“Who is it on the team that you need to see? Maybe you need a dietician or a social worker. Or, it could be the family practice nurse. They’ll decide where you need to be.”
Patient medical records are shared within a collaborative practice so that information obtained by one team member becomes easily available to the rest of the team.
The Wagmatcook information session gathered comments from participants about what they like about the collaborative family practice model, concerns they have about the model, and what the NSHA needs to know to make collaborative practice models a success. Feedback from the information session can be accessed at https://bit.ly/2rrlhhp.