Law would enhance powers of nurse practitioners
Greater role in health care sought for grads
Nurse practitioners will be given new powers to write sick notes and judge a person’s medical fitness to drive a vehicle, under legislation introduced by the B.C. government Monday.
Health Minister Mike de Jong said the role of nurse practitioners is being expanded to “remove some of the impediments that nurse practitioners were experiencing in realizing their full potential.”
In addition to their nursing training, nurse practitioners have graduate-level education in diagnosing and treating common illnesses. There are 218 registered nurse practitioners in B.C.
If passed by the legislature, the bill would allow nurse practitioners to issue certificates excusing people from work due to an illness, pregnancy or mental-health reason.
They would also be able to conduct medical examinations for people taken into custody in corrections centres.
The law would allow a nurse practitioner to issue recommendations to the superintendent of motor vehicles on whether a per- son is unable for medical reasons to drive a motor vehicle.
The expanded role of nurse practitioners is vital to the health-care system in B.C., which is short of family physicians and overwhelmed by the need for chronic disease management, said Deb Mcpherson, president of the B.C. Nurses’ Union.
“We need to be utilizing many more of them in any role they are competent to perform,” Mcpherson said.
However, the last two classes of nurse-practitioner graduates in B.C. have struggled to find jobs, she said.
“It’s all well and good to be expanding their role but B.C. is way behind in its use of nurse practitioners vis-àvis the rest of the country,” Mcpherson said.
She said health authorities don’t have the funding to hire them and many physicians still don’t want to work with them.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have additional education and nursing experience. They work in a variety of settings.
The nurses’ union was involved for more than a decade in setting up the nurse-practitioner program. But in 2005, the government denied nurse practitioners the right to join a bargaining unit. They are not unionized.