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'I'm a registered nurse with advanced training': Nurse practitioners at St. Mary's General Hospital providing leading care in cardiac centre

This is part three of our National Nursing Week series, Commitment to Care.

As people around the world celebrate International Nurses Day Friday, it’s a reminder of how nursing responsibilities have evolved since the time of Florence Nightingale – the founder of modern nursing.

You don’t have to look further than Kitchener’s St. Mary’s General Hospital (SMGH) to see the expanded roles in practice.

The hospital’s cardiac centre is benefitting from leading care provided by nurse practitioners.

“I am a registered nurse with advanced training,” said Jennifer Harrison, a nurse practitioner working in cardiac surgery.

It’s a simple explanation for her complex role.

“[It] allows me the authority to order tests, to review the results of that test, to order medications, to make a diagnoses and make a plan of care with a patient,” Harrison said.

She’s one of several nurse practitioners at SMGH helping take some of the load off doctors.

“Because the surgeons are in the operating room most days, patients will see me on behalf of their surgeon to plan and provide their medical care and then review with the surgeons if there’s any concerns,” Harrison said.

It’s a role that has taken off in recent years.

“Certainly in the last decade or two, they’ve really found an increased role. And not just in acute care but in primary care,” said Rebecca Stuart, the hospital’s interim chief nurse executive.

St. Mary's General Hospital in Kitchener appears on May 11, 2023. (Spencer Turcotte/CTV Kitchener)

In a strained healthcare system, the extra knowledge and care is beneficial, according to hospital staff.

“It’s really an opportunity to stretch healthcare resources which, as we know, are even more challenging post-pandemic,” said Stuart.

The use of nurse practitioners is only expected to grow.

“I do think it’s an excellent opportunity for registered nurses who are looking to really advance their role within healthcare and advance their scope of practice,” Harrison said.

But even as their roles and responsibilities expand, nurse practitioners are still nurses at heart, with a commitment to care always top of mind. Top Stories

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