Quebec's health minister wants to give more power to nurse practitioners as part of a plan to ease the backlog in the healthcare system.

Commonly referred to as 'super nurses,’ nurse practitioners in Quebec aren’t able to use their skills to their full potential, the way they can elsewhere in Canada.

Health Minister Danielle McCann is set to change that.

“We're the only province where this exists, where a nurse practitioner is not able to make a diagnosis,” she said. “And also they're being supervised, so they have to refer to doctors regularly, to be supervised in the interventions that they're doing.”

McCann wants to allow nurse practitioners to make diagnoses for chronic illnesses – something they're already trained to do – without requiring the patient to follow up with a doctor.

“That's something that would be very useful for us and for my doctor colleagues also,” said Mathieu Tancrede, a nurse practitioner at the CLSC des Faubourgs.

The CAQ said it wants to give Quebecers better access to healthcare overall.

“We want the doctors to be freed from that and the nurses, so we have more time for them to see more patients,” said McCann, adding that doctors could then spend time with more complex cases.

The previous Liberal government also pushed for the change: former health minister Gaetan Barrette wanted to increase the number of nurse practitioners from 400 to 2,000 by 2025.

It only makes sense, said Luc Mathieu, president of the Quebec Order of Nurses.

“Nurse practitioners already see patients and initiate a treatment plan, so they have to know what it is they're treating,” he said.

The head of the Quebec College of Physicians insists he doesn't disagree with giving nurses more autonomy but wants to ensure the change is cohesive.

“Partnership is the way of the future,” said Dr. Mauril Gaudreault. “Not nurses and doctors practicing separately.”

The details still need to be determined, and the change would require modifying provincial legislation. McCann said she wants this to happen in the next year, ideally with the full support of Quebec's College of Physicians.