As many residents in Ontario are aware, it is very difficult to find a family physician that is taking new patients. However, these new clinics provide a different model of care that could help many people throughout Ontario. "These clinics have the expertise to prevent illness, manage chronic conditions and treat people when ill," said David McNeil, president of the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario in a press release.
NP's must obtain a four-year university nursing degree and have at least two years of clinical experience before applying to the two-year nurse practitioner certificate program that is combined with a master's degree. They are trained to treat common illnesses and injuries, order lab tests, X-rays, and other diagnostic tests, as well as provide immunizations and order medications.
"In these clinics, NP's become the primary care provider," said Ms. Sanders. "They provide continuing care to patients because they are registered to these clinics."
One of the differences between these clinics and walk in clinics is that patients' health is monitored. Ms. Butcher explained that while patients may go to a walk-in clinic to get a refill on diabetes medication, these clinics take the time to ask questions to find out whether a patient's diabetes has improved, if they have changed their diet, and what side effects they have been experiencing.
Another reason this new model stands out is that NP's work in a team based environment alongside doctors, nurses and other specialists to provide patients with quality care.
"We're a team. Physicians and other specialists are very much a part of the clinics," said Ms. Butcher. "We utilize everyone's skills."
On cases that go beyond NP's scope of practice, physicians step in to address the patient's needs. Instead of seeing patients for routine health issues that a NP could solve, doctors are able to spend time on more complicated health problems. Joanna Binch, a nurse practitioner at the Ottawa Mission's Primary Health Care Clinic said she was thrilled to hear about the wave of new applications and could not say enough positive things about her job and the opportunities that these new clinics will provide. "It's an opportunity to use our full scope of practice and utilize the skills we have," she said. Ms. Binch explained that when she is asked to refer patients to family doctors, there are very few accepting in Ottawa. She said she believes that Ottawa could really benefit from having one of these clinics open in the city. "They offer a comprehensive care model with an increased return rate," she said. "A lot of people are really keen on having holistic care."
The call for applications closed on June 25 and applicants will be selected from groups or individuals from across the province such as registered non-profit organization, local community-based organizations and nurse practitioners. The new clinics will be awarded this summer. "Being an NP is a great job and we strongly advocate good health care," Ms. Binch said. "We do a good job and we know our limits and these clinics could really make a positive difference in increasing people's access to primary health care."
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