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Super nurses: More autonomy, more care for patients

Montreal, February 28, 2019 – The Collège des médecins du Québec ended up showing some openness, and specialized nurse practitioners can now make certain diagnoses. As shown in a publication launched today by the MEI, “super nurses” are qualified to provide a wide range of care, which can free up doctors from certain tasks and increase access for patients.

Studies carried out in Canada and the United States, for example, showed that from 60% to 90% of primary care can be provided by nurse practitioners. “We need this in Quebec: One in five Quebecers still does not have access to a family doctor, and in Montreal, it’s one in three. As for our emergency wait times, they’re now legendary!” points out Patrick Déry, Senior Public Policy Analyst and author of the publication.

“Unfortunately, in all of Canada, Quebec is the place where there are the fewest super nurses as a proportion of the population. Expanding the scope of their work would not solve every problem, but it would certainly help improve things,” he adds.

Patients can rest easy. A survey of some twenty studies carried out in OECD countries noted very high satisfaction rates among patients having consulted nurse practitioners. As for health indicators, they were found to be similar to those of patients treated by doctors. “Notably, longer consultations and the extra attention devoted to prevention led to improvements in the health of patients with chronic diseases like diabetes,” says Patrick Déry.

Those who worry about possible frictions or divergence of opinions should be reassured. A study of 600 patients in the United Kingdom found that physicians and nurse practitioners agreed on 94% of diagnoses, and on 96% of treatments.

“The fact that SNPs can make diagnoses is a good first step, but we shouldn’t stop there,” adds Patrick Déry. “Under the pretext of ‘protecting the public,’ the restrictions imposed on nurse practitioners are a typical example of regulation that benefits a small influential group—medical doctors, through certain groups that represent them—to the detriment of all Quebecers.”

The spirit of openness demonstrated by the Collège des médecins du Québec should apply to all health professionals, in order to allow them to use all their skills. For example, we could apply the same reasoning to our pharmacists, who are the only ones in Canada who cannot administer vaccines, or to dental hygienists, who cannot practise their profession without the supervision of a dentist. “The point is not to pit health professionals against one another, but to ensure that Quebecers have the best possible access to care,” concludes Mr. Déry.

The Viewpoint entitled “Should Super Nurses Be Allowed to Make Diagnoses?” was prepared by Patrick Déry, Senior Public Policy Analyst at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The MEI is an independent public policy think tank. Through its publications and media appearances, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing reforms based on market principles and entrepreneurship.


Interview requests: Daniel Dufort, Director of External Affairs, MEI. Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2224 / Cell. 738-886-9919 / Email: ddufort@iedm.org

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