Nurse practitioners are now allowed to work in the territory, following new legislation that came into effect on Nov. 23.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses who are able to diagnose conditions, prescribe medications and make referrals to specialists. They have more education and experience than registered nurses.
The absence of nurse practitioners was a huge gap in the Yukon’s health-care system, said Sean Secord, president of the Yukon Registered Nurses Association.
“There were many orphaned patients that were unable to get a health-care provider, such as a family doctor, to help manage their medical emergencies,” he said. Experts have been talking about the benefits of using teams of professionals to treat health-care needs, instead of just relying on family doctors, he said.
“Nurse practitioners help to meet unmet needs, whether those unmet needs are people without a primary health-care provider or whether it’s unmet needs of aspects of their health that just aren’t being adequately dealt with,” said Secord.
The association had been working since 2005 to see nurse practitioners licensed to work here, he said. The NDP has also been talking about the need for a client-centred, team-based approach to health care.
There are about six nurses in Yukon, including Secord, who are qualified to work as nurse practitioners, he said.
There is one registered practical nurse who has been working with the government doing research on continuing care, said Secord. Some nurses are also creating a proposal to work at a clinic in Whitehorse, he added.
Faced with a growing shortage of family doctors in Whitehorse, the government moved earlier this month to extend the time period for the provisional medical licences it gives to foreign-trained doctors. The move allowed three doctors to extend their stay in the territory.
And last month, the government announced $1.6 million in funding over five years for a collaborative-care clinic. The clinic is supposed to open within two years.