Nurses play a vital and expanding role in healthcare delivery

Whether working in a bustling ER, or providing support to patients in long-term care facilities, there’s no question: nurses are an essential part of our health-care system. With nearly 15,000 nurses in our province, they make up the largest portion of our provincial health workforce.

And while our Nova Scotia government is working diligently to help recruit more physicians and health-care workers to our province, we know that we can also look at expanding the already vital role that nurses play.

Our government acted on a recommendation from the Nova Scotia Nurses Union that Registered Nurses (RNs) be trained to write certain prescriptions. This was the first recommendation in their recent report, and our government and the Nova Scotia Health Authority wholeheartedly agreed that a prescription training program for RNs would be another innovative, efficient way we can create a better health-care system for Nova Scotians.

In fact, it’s not just innovative: it’s a no-brainer. As early as January of next year, the new prescription training program will begin through Dalhousie University, where upon completion, RNs enrolled in the program will be able to prescribe certain antibiotics. Not only will this cut a chunk out of the waiting time for patients with minor illnesses, but it frees up time for doctors to attend to patients with more critical issues.

It was clear through discussions at the recent meeting of Nova Scotia’s Standing Committee on Health that nurses are excited by this new program. RNs are highly skilled and sometimes experience the frustration of not being able to put pen to paper for a patient needing a simple prescription.

Nurse Practitioners (NP’s) are also playing an increasingly expanding role in our healthcare system. That’s why we’ve added 25 new seats at Dalhousie University to train more nurse practitioners and introduced a Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive that will pay the salary of up to 10 RNs studying at Dal to become nurse practitioners. In return, they commit to working in a designated community for five years. And an arrangement with Cape Breton University will allow students to complete some of these studies locally instead of having to travel to Halifax.

Initiatives like these have allowed us to hire an additional 133 nurse practitioners, family practice nurses, and other health professionals since 2017.

Are we done? Not even close. But we’re taking steps in the right direction to improve health care across Nova Scotia.


Keith Irving

MLA for Kings South

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