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by Evan Radford

The University of Regina and SIAST have announced a new Master of Nursing program collaboratively offered by both schools, to begin in September 2014.

The program will provide training to registered nurses intending to obtain Registered Nurse-Nurse Practitioner (RN/NP) status. Fifteen seats will be available each academic year. Pogram head Joyce Bruce said 25 people have expressed interest in the program so far.

The professional group Nurse Practitioners of Saskatchewan lists 161 licensed nurse practitioners in the province.

Nurse practitioners have broader and deeper training than RNs, so  they can diagnose and treat patients’ ailments, as well as prescribe various medications. Furthermore, nurse practitioners perform certain types of surgeries and sutures, said nursing professor Glenn Donnelly.

Donnelly said nurse practitioners complement the roles of physicians, especially in clinics and health centre settings. He says this allows physicians to focus on their specialties, while nurse practitioners handle patients with chronic conditions and they develop community-based programs.

Lynn Digney Davis, Saskatchewan’s chief nursing officer, added that nurse practitioners provide needed support to the province’s rural communities.

She said, since “rural communities are more spread out, many nurse practitioners work where they live. A lot of folks take training and have jobs where they live. They can provide consistent ongoing service.”

An important difference between nurse practitioners and physicians is the amount they earn.

In the 2012-2013 Regina Qu’Appelle Health Region annual report, physicians’ annual salaries ranged from just over $50,000 to $946,695. (Some of these payments are to cover the cost of maintaining medical practices and staff.)

In its collective bargaining agreement with the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations, the Saskatchewan Union of Nurses lists a starting wage for a nurse practitioner at $46.70 per hour.  After 12 months or after 1,948.8 hours of work (whichever comes later), the wage increases to $48.61 per hour.

Assuming forty hour work weeks, a Step 1 nurse practitioner earns $89,664 per year before deductions. A Step 2 nurse practitioner earns $93,331.20 per year before deductions.

Digney Davis said physicians and nurse practitioners see problems around remuneration because physicians cannot bill for the work that nurse practitioners do within their practice.

She said this is problematic for the team-based approach promoted by nurse practitioners.

There are many physicians who choose not to use a nurse practitioner because it affects their own income, she said.

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