Registed Nurses' Association of Ontario

Researchers examine how nurse practitioners are improving access to the health-care system

Researchers examine how nurse practitioners are improving access to the health-care system


TORONTO, May 13, 2008 – Beyond headlines about a health-care system stretched to its limits, there is plenty of evidence about solutions that will keep Canada’s health system strong, viable and accessible to all. But how does the health-care system change to include those solutions?  How does research get adopted into policies that make a real difference to the public?


Some of those answers were discussed this morning during a virtual conference, held in conjunction with National Nursing Week, about the latest research on how nurse practitioners (NPs) improve patients’ access to care, and how to make better use of them throughout the system.  Thirty-two participants, including leaders from across Canada and chief executive officers of Ontario’s Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN), held a lively discussion on how best to move research into policy, and the urgent need to increase timely access to primary care services across the province. They heard from a panel of experts including Alba DiCenso, a nursing researcher at McMaster University who has examined the NP role for decades; Pamela Pogue, President of the Nurse Practitioners’ Association of Ontario; and Marilyn Butcher, Clinic Director at the Sudbury District Nurse Practitioner Clinics.


“Nurse Practitioners are the most over-evaluated health professional role that exists,” DiCenso says, adding that it is time to “fast track” action on this front. During the conference, Pogue shared the role of NPs in primary health care and acute care, and Butcher discussed the Sudbury NP-led clinic’s experience and the community’s high level of support and satisfaction.


“Much research has been done on how nurse practitioners’ utilization improve timely and quality access to our health-care system,” says Doris Grinspun, Executive Director of the Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario, which co-hosted the event. “By hearing from health-care researchers and LHIN leaders, we can get a better understanding of how we keep building our evidence and use it to strengthen Medicare today and for generations to come.”

NPs are RNs with advanced education and decision-making skills in assessment, diagnosis and health-care management. They have legislative authority to treat common illnesses and injuries, write prescriptions, order lab tests, X-rays and other diagnostic tests. Last summer, the first NP-led clinic in Canada opened its doors in Sudbury, and has already taken on 1,300 patients who had nowhere to go for health care except overcrowded emergency rooms and walk-in clinics. Based in part on Sudbury’s success, the government has committed to opening 25 more NP-led clinics, with at least three of those to open their doors in 2008.

“NP-led clinics are just one example of how research can build evidence that will lead to healthier communities,” says Nancy Edwards, professor at the school of nursing at the University of Ottawa, one of the founding members of the Nursing Best Practice Research Unit. Edwards and Grinspun are Co-Leaders of a group of several researchers who are examining how large system change happens. The project is funded by the Canadian Health Service Research Foundation (CHSRF). The research team plans to continue to tackle this and other system-wide changes through virtual gatherings between researchers and policy makers.

The Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO) is the professional association representing registered nurses wherever they practise in Ontario. Since 1925, RNAO has lobbied for healthy public policy, promoted excellence in nursing practice, increased nurses’ contribution to shaping the health-care system, and influenced decisions that affect nurses and the public they serve.


For more information, please contact:
Marion Zych, Director of Communications, RNAO
Phone: 416-408-5605
Toll free: 1-800-268-7199 ext.209
Cell: 647-406-5605