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Quebec's 'super nurses' prepare for more medical powers
Specialized nurses in Quebec are getting ready to use their skills to the best of their abilities.
In the months to come, nurse practitioners in the province will have more autonomy and will be able to diagnose and treat six common health problems, including high blood pressure, diabetes, and asthma.
The shift in power comes after the College of Physicians, following years of resistance, agreed to allow the highly-trained nurses to carry out the functions for which they have been educated.
Nurse practitioners in other provinces have already been performing those duties. Claudie Rossy is glad the day has finally come she can do the same in Quebec.
"We were trained to do this, we are competent, and we have the expertise. You have to remember that just like doctors we are accountable, and responsible for the acts that we perform, and for the decisions that we take, just like other medical specialists," said Rossy.
The province has been pushing the College of Physicians to permit nurse practitioners to have more authority in order to streamline services and reduce wait times for patients.
Former health minister Gaetan Barrette said during his term in office the College agreed to allow nurse practitioners to begin treatment and prescribe medications for certain conditions, as long as a doctor followed up within 30 days.
Less than a year later, the College has decided that a confirmation visit with a doctor is no longer necessary, and agrees that the new formula will allow doctors to see more patients with more urgent needs and reduce waiting lists.
“(They can) spend more time with patients who may be a little more work-intensive and allow patients who can be diagnosed quickly and treated quickly get access to care faster,” Nathalie Saad, the vice-president of the College of Physicians.
Of the 74,000 registered nurses in the province, roughly 550 are nurse practitioners. The government wants to push that figure to 2,000 by 2024.
That goal might be hard to achieve, said Luc Mathieu of Quebec's Order of Nurses. Only 44 per cent of Quebec nurses have a university degree, which is required before they can do the Master's degree in nursing needed to become a practitioner.
“Not everyone wants to do graduate studies,” he said. “It's a very demanding training, and we might face a shortage.”