Nova Scotia

Training program for RNs to write prescriptions to be ready by fall

A senior official with the Nova Scotia Health Authority says a training program that would give some registered nurses the ability to write prescriptions in certain settings has the potential to have 'significant impacts on access' to health-care services.

Officials expect certificate program to have 'significant impacts' on access to services

A certificate program at Dalhousie University is almost complete that will train registered nurses to be able to write some prescriptions. (CBC)

A senior official with the Nova Scotia Health Authority says a training program that would give some registered nurses the ability to write prescriptions in certain settings has the potential to have "significant impacts on access" to health-care services.

Tim Guest, vice-president of health services, made the comments the day after the release of a major report from the Nova Scotia Nurses' Union that contained recommendations for ways to improve the primary health-care system.

Among the 35 recommendations was to give registered nurses the ability to issue prescriptions. Guest said work on the effort, which has involved the health authority, IWK Health Centre, union, nursing college officials and others has taken about 18 months and is nearing completion.

"We knew that access has been a problem for the public in Nova Scotia and we thought this could be a solution to that," said Guest.

The associate director of graduate studies for Dalhousie University's faculty of health said development of the certificate program is complete and undergoing the necessary approval processes. In an email, Marilyn Macdonald said she expects that process to be complete by late fall of this year, but it's not clear when the program will be offered by the university's school of nursing.

Tim Guest is vice-president of integrated services and chief nursing officer for the Nova Scotia Health Authority. (CBC)

Macdonald said the program would take three to six months to complete, depending on the rate at which the nurse chooses to complete the certificate requirements, and it's designed so people don't need to stop working to do the program.

Guest said the initial focus would be offering the training to nurses working in established collaborative care practices. The idea is to see how that goes and evaluate the results before considering rolling it out in other ways.

"It is not our intention for it to be a widespread initiative where every nurse in the province will be expected to be able to prescribe medications and it be a free for all," said Guest.

Potential areas of help

That's not to say they don't already see other areas that could benefit from the increased training for nurses.

Guest said officials with public health, sexual health clinics and home care have all indicated it could be helpful for them in delivering better access. He also sees potential in areas where nurses have particular expertise, such as wound care or at a diabetes education centre.

"Particularly [for] individuals who have diabetes that may not have a primary care provider," he said.

In British Columbia, registered nurses can write prescriptions for birth control and in Newfoundland and Labrador nurses in specific areas can (with authorization from their employer) provide patients with certain medications in specific situations. Alberta, Manitoba, Quebec and Saskatchewan are all in the process of developing or implementing programs.

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About the Author

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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