Government has amended the Hospitals Act to allow nurse practitioners to discharge patients from hospitals.
The amended regulations will also allow registered nurses to assess, treat and release some patients in emergency departments and collaborative emergency centres.
Currently, only physicians, midwives and dentists can release patients from hospitals.
Nurse practitioners and registered nurses can assess and treat patients, but can’t discharge them, even though they are educated and licensed to do so.
This change will bring Nova Scotia in line with similar legislation in B.C., Ontario and Manitoba, which allow nurse practitioners to discharge patients. New Brunswick allows registered nurses to release certain patients from emergency departments.
“Our registered nurses and nurse practitioners are well educated and capable health professionals. These amendments will let them do what they are trained and ready to do,” said Health and Wellness Minister Leo Glavine.
“This change will help patients get the care they need, and spend less time in hospitals waiting to be discharged. It will also free up physicians’ time to treat patients who need medical care only they can provide.”
The change will start at pilot sites — an inpatient unit at the Dartmouth General Hospital, the Yarmouth Regional Hospital emergency department, and Springhill’s collaborative emergency centre.
This will allow the Nova Scotia Health Authority to phase in changes, making sure it meets patients’ needs.
“This means patients aren’t going to be waiting hours and hours to see a physician when they don’t need to,” said Joyce d’Entremont, director of nursing at South West Health.
Ms. d’Entremont said currently, patients who need stitches removed or have minor burns might be treated by a nurse, but may have to wait hours to be officially released by a physician.
“This means some patients will come to the emergency department and have quicker access to treatment, and get home sooner.”
The pilot will begin in spring, starting with nurse practitioner patient discharge at the Dartmouth General Hospital site.