The government of Alberta is planning to spend billions of dollars over the next few years on the creation of family clinics across the province — and that will mean an expanded role of nurse practitioners in the health care system.

There are currently 315 nurse practitioners in the province, but that number is expected to double under the government’s new plan to have at least two working in every family clinic in Alberta.

In Alberta, nurse practitioners are able to preform duties that registered nurses cannot, including:

  • Performing annual check-ups
  • Managing chronic disease
  • Running and interpreting diagnostic tests
  • Prescribing some forms of medication

Nurse practitioners are able to perform some duties not included in traditional nursing  like running diagnostic tests, performing annual check-ups and managing chronic disease.

They’re also able to prescribe certain medications - a role that is likely to expand in the fall, with expected federal regulations that would allow nurse practitioners to write prescriptions for narcotic pain medication.

"What happens when a nurse practitioner is working in a remote community when they truly have someone who is in severe pain and they cannot treat that pain appropriately?" asked Dianne Dyer, president of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

"So I think this is a great plan," she said.

Next week the Alberta Medical Association will release a discussion paper urging a conversation with government and the public to define roles of the healthcare teams.