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Nurse practitioners will play an increasingly important role in the health care system, says Marilyn Barrett. (CBC)

Health PEI has created four new positions for nurse practitioners to work alongside Island doctors.

The positions are based in Charlottetown, Summerside, O'Leary and Queen's West.

Marilyn Barrett, director of primary care networks for Health PEI, told CBC News they will increasingly become a part of the health care system in the coming years.

"I think long-term what you'll see is nurse practitioners continuing to work in collaborative relationships with physicians," said Barrett.

"They will take on some of their own caseload, and I think you will see us increase the number of nurse practitioners. That's the plan over the coming years."

There are now 12 nurse practitioner positions on P.E.I., but only six of those have been filled.

Barrett admits recruitment has been a challenge, but says that's starting to change now that nurses from the Island are graduating from programs at UPEI and on the mainland.

Of the 12 total positions, nine are in collaborative practice, one is in long-term care, one at the cancer treatment centre, and one is teaching at UPEI.

A pilot project at the Parkdale Medical Centre in Charlottetown where a nurse practitioner has her own patient caseload is halfway through its run. It's the first time that has been done on P.E.I.