OPINION: nurse practitioners uniquely positioned to fill gaps in ailing health care system

By Jodi Colwill

WELLINGTON COUNTY – Nov. 13 to 19 marked Nurse Practitioner week. 

At the same time, Ontario is facing a health care crisis with unprecedented ER wait times, hospital admissions, specialist backlogs and patients without a primary care provider. This crisis has left patients and health care providers alike frustrated and burnt out. 

Understanding how nurse practitioners (NP) are uniquely positioned to improve the system is the first step in advocating to our local health care and government leadership. 

NPs are a realistic and hopeful solution that currently has significant funding barriers.

NPs are independent registered health care providers who have the capacity to diagnose, assess, test, prescribe and refer when needed for most health care needs. Over the past decade, they have had their scope expanded to include full prescribing and ordering of tests, most recently CT and MRIs. 

Within Wellington County NPs can be found providing comprehensive care within our family health teams, community health centres, long term care homes, hospitals, emergency departments and mental health and addictions organizations.

Across the province there are 25 NP-led clinics working as the most responsible provider to over 100,000 patients.

Implementation of NP care has been proven to be safe, effective and improve patient outcomes. NPs have over eight years of clinical and academic training. 

When put to use, their care decreases wait times, alleviates pressures from the system, including ER overuse, and links patients to comprehensive continuity of care.

NPs are uniquely positioned to be the “most responsible provider” for patients within any of the above listed settings. They can help to meet the demand of unattached patients in Wellington County while simultaneously alleviating system backlog and burnout. 

So why do we not have more? The answer is funding. In order to meet this demand, there needs to be expansion of funding to government health agencies prioritizing NPs. If you do not have a care provider or are unable to get your health needs met in a timely manner, the question to be asking your local government leadership is, “why can’t we get more nurse practitioners?”

If you are lucky enough to be receiving exemplary care from an NP, please share that too! 

Jodi Colwill is a local nurse practitioner and a Nurse Practitioners Association of Ontario board member.

Jodi Colwill