The government of P.E.I. is going to allow nurse practitioners to take on their own patients in an effort to shorten waitlists to see a family doctor.

Some people have been on waiting lists for more than a year to get a doctor. The new plan would allow nurse practitioners to be their primary care provider.

"We just think that this is a golden opportunity for so many Islanders to finally get the health care that they've been unable to get because physicians have been so extremely busy with their own practices," said Karen Moore-Edwards. She's the first nurse practitioner to be accepted into the pilot program.

Nurse practitioners are experienced registered nurses with a Master's degree. There are four on P.E.I.

Moore-Edwards said people can be confident in the care they'll receive.

"If we see something not just right, we absolutely call our physician."

Idea practiced elsewhere

Moore-Edwards will receive about 100 files next month, with more added each month. She could take as many as 800 patients depending on the needs.

Health PEI said Nurse Practitioners can do about 70 per cent of the work doctors do, including health promotion, disease prevention and holistic care.

"I think if you look across the country, you'll see that nurse practitioners have been practicing in independent roles pretty much everywhere else in the country," said Marilyn Barrett of Health PEI.

The pilot project will allow Moore-Edwards to practice on her own for a year, after that the government expects three other nurse practitioners to take on patients as well.

An estimated 10,000 people on P.E.I. don't have a doctor.