Nurse Practitioner program grads
join the health care team.
ON A WARM SUMMER MORNING THERE'S A RELAXED ATMOSPHERE around the cleft palate and craniofacial area of BC Children’s Hospital. Kids run around and play with a plastic furniture set as their parents watch. Nearby in a private assessment room, Nurse Practitioner Lorine Scott tends to her patient, a four-year-old boy from Prince George who was born with a cleft palate. She listens to his heartbeat with a stethoscope decorated with purple alligators. After a few moments she passes the eartips to little Treyden Cardinal. “Can you hear that? What is it saying?” she asks as Treyden tilts his head to concentrate on the sound.
Scott, MN ’06, is among the first graduates of nurse practitioners programs introduced in 2003 at UVic and UBC. Through the program, experienced nurses gain the knowledge and skills that—according to research—will improve overall health care delivery. That’s because nurse practitioners are qualified to assess and treat many of the routine ailments previously handled by physicians and surgeons so that they, in turn, can focus on more complicated cases.
“A nurse practitioner has additional education at the master’s level,” says Prof. Marjorie MacDonald, Interim Director of the UVic School of Nursing. “They do everything a registered nurse can do and more.”
While there are three kinds of NP designations in Canada (family, pediatric and adult), UVic and UBC focus on family-based training. Students learn about health issues across the lifespan and in the context of families. Nurse practitioners were employed in Canada as far back as the ’60s but only recently have most provinces begun regulating them. In 2005, the BC government officially designated nurse practitioners under the Health Professions Act.
“I like the way nurses approach patients,” says Scott. “A nurse’s education looks not only at a patient’s illness and condition, but also…at the experience of life for the family.”
Scott’s career began in 1972. After much deliberation, she decided to go back to school as one of the first 15 students at UVic’s NP program, via distance education. She worked full-time during her training and did a three-month practicum on Pender Island. Final exams, standards, and scope of practice are administered by the College of Registered Nurses of BC.
Scott and other NPs can diagnose and manage patients with common acute and chronic physical and mental conditions. They can also prescribe certain medications and order diagnostic services. Nurse practitioners are also able to work somewhat autonomously—that is, they don’t have to act solely on a doctor’s recommendations and can perform certain functions without securing a physician’s approval.
At Children’s Hospital, Scott works collaboratively with health authorities and other members of the health care team—plastic surgeons, speech pathologists, orthodontists, social workers —to build connections among the 15 families she cares for each day and the specialists they need to see.
“I know a bit about what everyone does,’” says Scott. “Our job is to help the children achieve whatever their personal best is.”
As Treyden and his family get ready to leave after his assessment, Scott finishes going over the details of his case, including his medical and social history, with his mom. “It’s always nice to come here,” says Tanya MacRobbie, who has traveled to the hospital from Prince George once a year since her son was born. “Lorine always answers all the questions we have, and she knows everything we need to know.”
Being there for families each step of the way is the most rewarding part of her work. “I help parents come to terms with having a baby that’s different. It can be pretty devastating to be told that. It’s an honour to be allowed into someone’s life at a time of sometimes sadness or crisis. It’s a very intimate moment, and being allowed to be a part of that and maybe offering my assistance is wonderful.”