Nurse practitioner suggest Municipalities aim for collaborative practice approach to stave off doctor shortages

by Nadine Armstrong/Hants Journal

As many physicians in Windsor and West Hants near retirement age, the municipalities have raised concerns about a future doctor shortage. At the June 26 joint council, Hantsport nurse practitioner Dawn Lowe spoke on the benefits of collaborative practice as a viable alternative to the standard family physician solo practice.

Nurse practitioners are licensed to diagnose and treat common illnesses. They also possess signing privileges, which means they can order diagnostics such as blood tests and X-rays as well as provide patients with general health care information and education. The benefits of this form of partnership, Lowe said, is that it frees the physician to deal with more serious cases and enables the practice to take on more patients.
“It’s a marriage between the family doctor and registered nurse — the best of both worlds,â€? she said. “Nurse practitioners are registered nurses but with advanced training and capabilities.â€?

Lowe said the collaborative approach in Hantsport has enhanced client care and patient satisfaction has been phenomenal. “It’s a much more holistic approach. This way we’re not just putting out fires, but preventing fires from happening.�

New ground

Although emergency rooms continue to be overcrowded the collaborative practice approach is still considered new ground for the province. Lowe is a pioneer in that respect.

She has practiced alongside Dr. Iona Wile for more than a year, yet funding for that partnership was finally secured only two weeks ago. Lowe said only four of seven from her graduating class have found employment in their field and they have had to find work out of province. This is partly because the Capital Health District only considers applications for funding once a year.

Lowe told council the success of her partnership with Dr. Wile speaks for itself. “We’re making history here and I think we’ll see more of it. Once the road is paved it’s not so bumpy the second time around.â€?

Hantsport Mayor Wayne Folker lauded the practice saying, “it certainly has served the community well and feedback here has been very good.�

West Hants Coun. Anne MacDonald congratulated Lowe and noted her daughter lives in the area and has noticed a difference in the quality of care with the collaborative practice. Since teaming up Lowe said that practice now takes on two new patients per day, over 700 since the partnership began.

Resurgence of methods

Coun. Shirley Pineo said the collaborative approach is a resurgence of old methods. “Thirty years ago the registered nurse did everything. I never saw the doctor, when did we allow that to stop? If we put the RN back in the doctors office it would allow them to do what they should be doing.�

Hantsport Deputy Mayor Peter Murray said emergency rooms are in a crisis situation and beds are sitting empty at all three long-term care facilities in the area. “We could use more nurse practitioners on all levels.�

Lowe said if there are concerns around doctor shortages than it may be time to recruit collaborative practices rather than the single family physician. “You need to target the new medical students and plug the idea to them early on.� She also suggests council begin to engage community interest in the collaborative practice approach, which would have a trickle effect across the board.

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