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The frontline role of nurse practitioners in health care

The main difference between a doctor and a nurse practitioner is the way they approach a person’s medical or mental health issue, says Louise Peterson who has four-years of service under her belt as a nurse practitioner.

Peterson has been at the Macklin Medical Clinic for 15-months. The Saskatchewan-resident has spent the majority of her nursing career in Nova Scotia, B.C. and Alberta before returning to Macklin. She adds most people would spend about 10-years as a registered nurse before going back to do their masters or doctorate to become a nurse practitioner.

“We look at a patient holistically. We look at how the illness affects them directly. We look at how the illness affects their work-life, their home life, their family – overall,” says Peterson.

She continues that on the surface-level the scope of practice is the same as a doctor, but the approach is different.

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“Physicians are systems-based. They look at somebody’s lung issue just as the lung. They may not consider how their work may affect their lungs.”

Issues that are beyond her scope of practice will be referred to a specialist, for example colonoscopies, endoscopies, removing an appendix or surgical procedures.

NPs can diagnose and treat illnesses, order, and interpret tests, prescribe medications, and perform medical procedures, says the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners, (SANP).

“In a time of uncertain health care, take a moment and thank those that are working hard to provide quality health care in this province. We celebrate all NPs in the province and in Canada who continue to be committed to providing quality, evidence-based, cost effective care,” says Cassandra Leggott SANP president.

Peterson notes the importance of NPs given the staffing issues in the health sector.

“I would say nurse practitioners are vital to the health care system as it’s overworked; overrun. Nurse practitioners often go to the rural and remote areas, and there are more being produced annually from the University of Regina and the University of Saskatchewan.”

Saskatchewan is observing Nurse Practitioner Week from Nov. 13-19.

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