Original Published on Aug 26, 2022 at 14:20

By Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Friday August 26th, 2022, the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners (SANP) released the results of their recent survey. The survey asked respondents to indicate what their employment status was. Unfortunately, less than half of the 320 practicing Nurse Practitioners (NP) and NP students in the province responded, but from the 124 that did, the survey revealed that many are either under-employed or unemployed. Of the survey respondents, 35% indicated that although they would like to be working full-time, they were only employed part time, and nearly 10% indicated that they are not working as a NP because there are no jobs for them in their communities. As Saskatchewan struggles to fill vacant positions in the Primary Health system, there are trained individuals here already looking for just such a job.

In 2019, Statistics Canada reported 17.2% of Saskatchewan residents did not have a primary care provider, a number which is felt to have worsened over the course of the COVID-19 pandemic as physicians have burnt out and either left the profession or left the province. Improved recruitment and retention strategies for NPs in rural settings, and better implementation of NPs in urban settings would alleviate this burden. Wakaw and district was fortunate to have had the services of Nurse Practitioner Jone Barry for several years at the Primary Health Centre.

A Primary Health Nurse Practitioner (NP) is a Registered Nurse who works in a Primary Health setting, has additional education and training, writes a national qu​a​lifying exam such as the national Canadian Nurse Practitioner Examinations: Family/All Ages, other jurisdictionally approved Family Nurse Practitioner licensing exams, or has passed stringent requirements for licensure and is licensed by the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses Association as an independent practitioner.

As a Primary Health Nurse Practitioner, NP’s can:

  • ​​​Diagnose and treat common medical illnesses      and chronic medical conditions such as diabetes and COPD
  • Order tests such as laboratory tests, x-rays      and ultrasounds.
  • Perform common procedures such as removal of      moles, excision and drainage of abscesses and suturing of simple wounds      (cuts).​
  • After assessment, prescribe medications.
  • See residents in long term care facilities and      order medications, tests, and treatments. (Physicians still need to see      residents at least once per month.)
  • Is also an RN who performs all the care giving      activities of a nurse, as well as education, injury prevention, and health      promotion.
  • Works together with the community to improve      the health of its population.

Training to become a Nurse Practitioner is available here in the province. The College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan offers registered nurses an opportunity to pursue a Master of Nursing Degree, with an advanced clinical practice focus (Nurse Practitioner). The Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner program is designed so students can complete it full-time over two years or part-time over three years. Courses are offered through live web-conference seminars (synchronous) which allows distance students to actively participate in classroom discussions from wherever they live in the province. As the Saskatchewan Health Authority struggles to entice physicians to locate in rural areas, and looks internationally, the framework already exists in the province to bring more Primary Health Nurse Practitioners on board within two years. 

Tara Schmalenberg, SANP President, says “Saskatchewan NPs have the education and practical experience to provide high-quality cost-effective health care for people of all ages across the health spectrum. Lack of access to primary care providers is forcing people to access care through emergency departments and urgent care centers for concerns which are more appropriately managed in the primary care setting. The results of this survey show that there are NPs immediately available to step into, or increase their capacity in, the provision of primary care services. There are NPs in Saskatchewan that are not working as an NP or want to work full time as an NP. There are NPs that live in communities with gaps and access issues to primary care and emergency services and are not employed there. It is time for NPs to be utilized to their full potential to provide health care services across Saskatchewan”.

This item reprinted with permission from The Recorder, Wakaw, Saskatchewan