Times Colonist

Law would enhance powers of nurse practition­ers

Greater role in health care sought for grads

- ROB SHAW and CINDY E. HARNETT rshaw@timescolon­ist.com ceharnett@timescolon­ist.com

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.

 ??  ?? Deb Mcpherson: “We need to be utilizing many more.”
Deb Mcpherson: “We need to be utilizing many more.”

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