A boon for First Nations health

Nurse Practitioner bound for Ktunaxa Nation Council.

The province of B.C. has hired 45 new nurse practitioners, and one of them will find a home in Cranbrook with a very important new role to play.

The East Kootenay Regional Hospital will be the recipient of one of the new nurse practitioners (NP), who will begin work with the Ktunaxa Nation Council once the candidate is chosen. The new NP will focus on First Nations primary health care, with an emphasis on the Tobacco Plains Band, explained Erin Toews, communications officer for Interior Health.

“The NP will be working in outreach to rural communities, especially to the Tobacco Plains Band, assessing patients and facilitating access to appropriate primary care services for the Aboriginal population,” Toews said. In total, Interior Health will welcome six new NPs for the southern interior of B.C.

The Ministry of Health committed $22.2 million in May to the hiring of 190 new NPs over three years, under the Nurse Practitioners for British Columbia Program. This will be the first round of hirings for the positions. The new NPs are expected to begin work as soon as possible.

Cranbrook was identified in the first intake of the new program. In the Ministry’s Summary of Approved Applications, it states that the Cranbrook Ktunaxa Nation Council would be a great fit for an NP.

“Their remote location makes it difficult to get urban appointments and there are no credentialed health workers in the community. Through comprehensive patient assessments the nurse practitioner will facilitate the appropriate utilization of services for the Aboriginal population,” the summary reads.

An NP differs from a registered nurse in that they have received a higher level of education, usually a Master’s degree or a Doctorate. They can be a patient’s sole health care provider, however in B.C. the NPs will work in more of a team environment along with primary care physicians. The goal is to identify and patch-up service gaps in the health care system, such as targeting Aboriginal peoples, the elderly or patients with mental health concerns.

NPs will also be able to admit and discharge patients, working with physicians and other health care workers. B.C. is the second province in Canada to have qualified NPs able to admit and discharge patients.

Currently, up to 45 can be educated every year in the province.