The Scope of Nurse Practitioners and Exploring the Benefits of Paying for Private Medical Care in Ontario

The Scope of Nurse Practitioners and Exploring the Benefits of Paying for Private Medical Care in Ontario

December 1, 2023

Family physicians in Ontario are facing challenges keeping up with the increasing demands of patient care. From budgets that no longer cover all areas of practice to physicians feeling overworked and leaving family medicine entirely, there are many key factors as to why the public healthcare system is declining in quality.

  1. Shortage of Family Physicians: Ontario, like many other provinces, is experiencing a shortage of GPs. The demand for primary care services is outweighing the available number of doctors, leading to longer wait times and difficulties in accessing necessary healthcare. As well, many physicians are on the verge of retirement, inevitably leaving many patients orphaned.
  2. Budgets: With increasing inflation and costs, but no change in budgets and funding, clinics are struggling to manage their overhead. After all operational expenses are paid out, to not only run the business and cover payroll, the leftover compensation for the physicians themselves does not equate to the amount of work required of them.
  3. Administrative Burden: Family physicians often face significant administrative burdens, such as paperwork, electronic health record management, and fulfilling reporting requirements. These are unpaid administrative tasks that take up valuable time and reduce the availability of doctors for patient care.

Efforts are being made to address these issues, such as increasing the number of family medicine residency positions and implementing new models of care, including team-based practices. However, these solutions take time to fully realize their impact, and in the interim, the strain on family medicine may continue.

This is where Nurse Practitioners (NPs) can help address the issues at hand. NPs have an expanded scope of practice within the healthcare field. They are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have acquired additional education and training beyond the requirements of a registered nurse (RN). In Ontario, NPs have a similar scope of practice to that of a family physician.
Their healthcare services include:

  1. Assessing and Diagnosing Health Conditions: NPs are trained to conduct comprehensive health assessments, review medical histories, perform physical examinations, and order and interpret diagnostic tests.
  2. Treatment Planning: NPs are authorized to develop and implement treatment plans, including prescribing medications and therapies, as well as providing counseling on health promotion, disease prevention, and lifestyle changes.
  3. Managing and Coordinating Care: NPs serve as primary healthcare providers and collaborate with other healthcare professionals to manage and coordinate patient care across various settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and nursing homes.
  4. Patient Education: NPs play a crucial role in educating patients about their medical conditions, treatment options, and self-care strategies empowering them to make informed healthcare decisions.
  5. Specialty Practice: NPs often specialize in specific areas of healthcare, such as family medicine, pediatrics, geriatrics, women’s health, mental health, or acute care. This specialization allows them to provide more focused and tailored care for certain patient populations.

With the struggle of family physicians keeping up with their clinical practices, NPs can help alleviate some of the workload. With their scope of practice being nearly identical, it is imperative NPs become a more integral part of the Canadian healthcare system.