The Work of a Specialist Nurse Practitioner

Lucie Tremblay
Lucie Tremblay

There are more and more specialist nurse practitioners (NP) in Quebec. They are experts in several fields, take care of patients and work with clients with complex health problems. To take stock of these super nurses, we met Lucie Tremblay, president of the Ordre des infirmières et infirmiers du Québec (OIIQ).

Mrs. Tremblay, could you explain to us what a specialist nurse practitioner is and how her work is different from that of other nurses?

A specialist nurse practitioner is a nurse who has several years of experience and who is studying for her master’s degree in order to deepen her knowledge and skills in the medical field.

Like nurses, the NP assess patients’ state of health, determines a care plan and provides care to maintain and restore health. The specialist nurse practitioner is distinguished however by the fact that she takes care of clients with complex health problems.

To supplement her care, the specialist nurse practitioner shares activities with the doctor that are usually reserved for him. These include, for example, prescribing drugs, medical treatments and diagnostic tests, as well as the use of invasive diagnostic measures.

What is the history of NPs in Quebec?

The first specialist nurse practitioners appeared around 2005. Even though at the time they mainly worked in hospitals, they quickly became integrated with primary health care. As we speak, there are more than 400 practising in the province.

The value added by the specialist nurse practitioner in the health care team is such that today the government wants to bring 2,000 into the network. Universities have already begun to admit more nurses into programs to meet the needs of the population’s increasingly complex health needs.

What is the contribution of the nurse practitioner in the health care teams?

Because she enjoys more autonomy than her counterparts and can go further in her activities, the nurse practitioner helps improve access to health care while ensuring continuity in care. She also assists with rapid patient management, especially with regard to monitoring and promoting health.

What is the OIIQ’s vision for the evolution of specialist nurse practitioners in Quebec?

We recently reviewed NP specialities to bring us closer to what is done in the rest of Canada. Up to now, NPs were found in primary care, neonatology, cardiology and nephrology. Soon they will also be working with adult and paediatric clients, as well as mental health.

The goal is to integrate NPs into sectors where they have not been present and bring a complement to the health care team. A need of the population is met in this way. The OIIQ is currently awaiting adoption of new regulations to move forward.

The specialist nurse practitioner, in short…

  • NPs practise across Canada. In 2017, there were NPs in several provinces, including 413 in Quebec and 3,177 in Ontario.
  • To become a specialist nurse practitioner, the nurse must accumulate several years of experience, hold a bachelor of nursing science and continue her studies at the master’s level.
  • The NP does the same work as a nurse, but more in-depth and with more autonomy.

For more information on nurse practitioner’s in Canada

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