Nurses' advocate says doctors not "be all and end all"

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VERNON - With a shortage of doctors in rural communities, the B.C. Nurses Union is promoting the use of nurse practitioners as a way to provide care to the community.

Union president Debra McPherson stopped in several Okanagan cities last week, and found resistance to an expanded role for nurses in at least one of them.

"The resistance from doctors to utilize nurse practitioners is a problem in some communities," she says, noting it came up during talks in Armstrong. "I'm not sure if it is in Enderby."

She says a big barrier to the integration of nurse practitioners into the health care system is that people don't really know what they can do.

"A lot of patients think they don't want to see them, that they'd rather see a doctor. But that's slowly changing," McPherson says. "They're coming to understand that doctors aren't the be all and end all. There are other people in the health care system that can provide a good level of care."

She says nurse practitioners cultivate a different kind of relationship with their patients than doctors do.

"Some people really like their approach," McPherson says. "Those who go to nurse practitioners love them, and don't feel cheated that they're not seeing a real doctor."

It's all about education and persistence, McPherson says.

"The health authority has to work with those docs to say look, let's  make a primary  team that includes nurse practitioners," she says. "I don't know if (doctor shortages) could be fully addressed, but it would certainly help to alleviate things."

To contact the reporter for this story, email Charlotte Helston at, call (250)309-5230 or tweet @charhelston.

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