Nurse practitioners join health clinic team


Peter Mallett, Staff Writer ~

Canadian Forces Health Services Centre (Pacific) recently announced the first-ever addition of nurse practitioners to its staff in an effort to enhance its service delivery.

France Murdoch, a health care professional with 23 years of experience working in the Ontario health care sector in the field of nursing became the first nurse practitioner to join the clinic health care team in September. Murdoch is the first of three nurse practitioners to join the three Integrated Health Teams (IHT) of CFB Esquimalt with two others coming onboard over the next few months.   

According to the Canadian Nurses Association, nurse practitioners are registered nurses who have additional educational and nursing experience, which enables them to autonomously diagnose and treat illness, order and interpret results, prescribe medications, and perform medical procedures when required.

Nurse practitioners arrived on the scene in Canada’s health care sector in 2006 to address physician shortages and service delivery crunches. In 2018 there were 5, 697 nurse practitioners in Canada with more than half of them working in Ontario and less than 500 in British Columbia, but their ranks are growing.

Since Murdoch is the first ever nurse practitioner to work at the base health clinic she understands that she needs to explain her role within the team.

“The big message I want to get across is that I am a nurse and not a doctor and I’m not there to fill their shoes or take over their jobs,” said Murdoch.  “I work collaboratively with doctors and nurses on staff, and nurse practitioners are a relatively new facet of health care service delivery so it’s important for people to know who we are.”

Nurse practitioners prescribe to a holistic-based approach says Murdoch, with the biggest part of her job being education. Once the nurse practitioner completes her patient interview and diagnosis, Murdoch says the next step is to educate the patient about their condition.

“The nurse practitioner is very patient centered and the patient is very involved in the decision-making process. They have a big say in their health care and treatment options during their appointment.”  The role of the nurse practitioner fits well within the clinic’s Integrated Health Team concept.  The key tenant of this concept puts the patient at the center of care surrounded by a team of medical and mental health providers.  The skills and expertise of the nurse practitioner compliment this team exceptionally well.

Murdoch is a member of the base hospital’s Integrated Health Team 3 (IHT 3). She is on duty Monday to Friday from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. Her duties in the morning are focussed on the health clinic’s sick parade that include patients with acute episodes. In the afternoon her focus shifts to booked appointments with patients.

In November the base hospital will welcome its second nurse practitioner to its staff, with a third to be added at a yet to be determined date. Deb Walker, a primary care nurse and Team Lead with IHT 3 says the arrival of Murdoch and future nurse practitioners will greatly improve service delivery.

“Their arrival has been a positive experience already because it makes it easier for military members to get quicker access to our services,” said Walker. “With nurse practitioners like France on the job it allows the health team’s doctors to focus on patients with a higher acuity.”

Murdoch, 43, has undergone 14 years of nursing education throughout her career and received her nurse practitioners’ qualification after doing her Masters in Nurse Practitioners at Athabaskan University.  She joined the staff of IHT 3 eight weeks ago, marking her first ever experience working for Canada’s military.

“It was a big career shift for me but I don’t feel like an outsider,” said Murdoch. “With the support and encouragement of my new coworkers, the learning I have done in the past eight weeks has been incredible.”

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