Why did you decide to become a nurse practitioner?
I was working in the Northwest Territories in a health centre as a community health nurse, an expanded role for me. I found repeatedly that I was encountering clinical situations where I felt like I needed more knowledge and more ability to manage and care for my patients. This was a health centre with nurses — and only visiting physicians. I wanted to provide the best care I could.
My journey began when I was completing my BScN at St. Francis Xavier University. Dr. Ria Rovers was our dean at the time, and in my fourth year she met with each nursing student one-on-one to ask us about our career plans. One of the things I loved about this program was our dean and her commitment to meeting clients where they are located. Even as the dean of nursing, she often went to remote locations in the world to provide care for patients who are underserved. During our meeting, she encouraged me to play a role in serving underserved populations here in Canada rather than going overseas right away. I came to the North because that was a passion of mine. I knew as a student I wanted to work in areas where nursing had a key role in providing services. Twelve months after graduating, I was working in the Northwest Territories in community health when I realized that I didn’t have enough knowledge or skills. At that time, Dalhousie had an outpost nursing program. I went into that program two years after graduating. The program was nine months long and included classroom work as well as an internship. While this was not an NP program, that was my first formal introduction to advanced practice nursing. I felt I gained more knowledge and skills after this program.
The formal role of being an NP then began to evolve in Canada, and the movement was towards having the NP at a master’s level. I knew I wanted to do a master’s in nursing midway through my career. At the time, Athabasca University had a master’s of health studies, but no masters of nursing. I applied to their program and took the NP stream, and then I was fortunate enough in my last semester that they expanded into nursing, so I could take the courses to graduate with a master’s of nursing.
How do you feel you help patients the most?
It is about the quality of time we spend with patients, listening to them, taking the time to truly hear what their concerns are. One of the benefits of being an NP is we have the time to spend with our patients. The extra time will often lead to a clinical assessment that may have otherwise been missed or overlooked. It allows you to delve into the issues that patients have. We have the ability to have very good rapport with our patients and develop those important relationships.
What is the most rewarding aspect of your job and what is the most challenging?
The most rewarding aspect is when you see clients get the care they need, do well, and subsequently have good health outcomes.
The most challenging aspect is clients having a hard time knowing what resources they need. It’s difficult to watch clients try to navigate the system when they do not know the system well enough and they do not know the resources available to them. Limited resources for clients and health services in general is a problem, especially in the North. I think NPs are well positioned to be able to help clients meet their needs and be able to help them manage and improve their own health. NPs also play a big role in helping patients with self-care.
More about Jo-Anne:
I have the best job because I am a director of primary health care working as an administrator/manager, but I also work as an NP clinically. As a director, I have the benefit of taking the knowledge from what I see working clinically with clients, and sharing it with our management team to develop such things as policies and processes that best meet the needs of clients. Both of these roles are very beneficial to one another — being a director benefits my role as a clinical NP, and being a clinical NP benefits my role as a director.
I get asked a lot: why not just become a physician? I have a lot of respect for physicians, but my passion has been nursing. I knew very young in my life I wanted to be a nurse and to this day it is my passion.