Nurse practitioner breaks new ground in Yukon health care

Lee Holliday is nearing the half-way point of a trial project at the health centre in Mayo, Yukon.

Lee Holliday is nearing halfway point of trial project at Mayo health centre

Nurse practitioner Lee Holliday is almost halfway through a one-year trial project in Mayo, Yukon. It's the first time a nurse practitioner has worked in a rural health centre in the territory. (Dave Croft/CBC)

Yukon's first practising nurse practitioner in a rural health centre is nearing the halfway point in a year-long trial project.

Lee Holliday took on the project in Mayo. The territorial Department of Health decided to proceed with the trial after the community's doctor retired last spring.

The project has recently expanded with Holliday also making trips to Pelly Crossing.

Holliday sees her job as a bridge between the level of care provided by the primary health-care nurses at the rural health centres and visiting doctors.

Nurse practitioners are authorized to make a medical diagnosis and explain the diagnosis to a patient, Holliday said.

They can order and interpret lab and diagnostic tests, including X-rays and ultrasounds, and they can prescribe and dispense medications. she said.​​

Holliday said she can book one-hour-long appointments with patients. She said that helps her to get to know them better and is maybe longer than they would get with a doctor. 

Holliday works at the Mayo health centre with primary health-care nurses and visiting doctors. (Lee Holliday)

"I think in my experience in my role, I spend a little bit more time with patients exploring chronic disease or chronic conditions," said Holliday, "and what that means to the person in the context of their life — the life that they are currently leading in a small community."

There are nurse practitioners working at clinics in Whitehorse and in continuing care facilities in the territory.

Holliday is the first to work in one of the rural health centres, said Sheila Thompson, the director of health services in the Yukon Health and Social Services Department.

Thompson said nurse practitioners are already working in rural areas in the other territories and the provinces.

The feedback from the Mayo trial so far has been positive, Thompson said, but a formal evaluation will have to be done at the end of the trial period before any decisions are made about hiring more nurse practitioners.

The evaluation will look at the impacts on the clients, on the community, and on the goal of continuously improving the quality of health care in the community, she said.


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