Saskatchewan is taking further steps to improve patients’ access to nurse practitioner services in rural and remote communities.
Minister responsible for Rural and Remote Health Randy Weekes has announced a new recruitment strategy that encourages nurse practitioners to work in communities with a population of 10,000 or less.
“We’re working to make sure all residents have access to quality primary health services, wherever they live in Saskatchewan,” Weekes said. “The Rural and Remote Nurse Practitioner Recruitment Strategy is a great step forward in supporting both nurse practitioners and patients. It's one more way we’re keeping our commitment to address health care needs in rural areas.”
“The Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners (SANP) is pleased to partner with the provincial government to move this initiative forward,” SANP President Lia Boxall said. “We have identified ways that nurse practitioners could be providing more accessible, quality, sustainable health care services to all people in Saskatchewan. This strategy will help us continue to remove barriers that exist at present and implement solutions that support nurse practitioners and benefit patients.”
“This initiative combined with our commitment to train more nurse practitioners will help improve patient care in Saskatchewan,” Advanced Education Minister Rob Norris said. “Since 2012, we have invested $630,000 for additional nurse practitioner seats and are on target to meet our commitment of 20 new training positions.”
The strategy has four initiatives to be phased in over two years:
“Grow Your Own” – Registered nurses will receive wages and benefits for up to two years while they receive full-time nurse practitioner training, based on a five-year return-of-service agreement in the sponsoring health region.
Rural Nurse Practitioners Locum Pool – A team of nurse practitioners will be formed to provide itinerant services on a temporary basis in communities that are without nurse practitioner services. The program will provide relief for vacation, sick leave or maternity leave.
Position transfers – Health regions will be able to move vacant nursing positions within health regions to communities with a demonstrated need for a nurse practitioner where no position exists.
Relocation grants – Nurse practitioners will be eligible for incentive grants of up to $40,000 over five years for practising in hard-to-recruit positions or locations.
It is expected that the Rural and Remote Nurse Practitioner Recruitment Strategy will cost approximately $250,000 annually, and will utilize existing funds within the Ministry of Health and Regional Health Authorities already targeted toward recruitment initiatives.
Weekes made the announcement in Regina at the annual nurse practitioner conference hosted by the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners and the Nurse Practitioners of Saskatchewan.
Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced education to perform physical assessments, order diagnostic tests, diagnose and treat common medical conditions, prescribe medications and perform minor surgical procedures.
More than 170 nurse practitioners are currently licensed in the province. This represents an increase of 71 per cent since 2007.