A new incentive program and additional seats at Dalhousie University will help ensure Nova Scotia has the nurse practitioners it needs. The Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive will cover the salaries of up to 10 registered nurses while they attend Dalhousie University’s two-year Master of Nursing nurse practitioner program full-time. In return, recipients will commit to work in one of several designated communities for five years. “Our top priority is improving access to primary health care and that includes nurse practitioners,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “Supporting registered nurses to become nurse practitioners will fill a growing workforce need and improve access to collaborative health care.” An expression of interest will be issued to those accepted to Dalhousie’s nurse practitioner program, family all-ages stream. Recipients will be selected based on whether they live in or are affiliated with one of the designated communities and are willing to relocate. “Nurse practitioners offer untapped potential in clinics, hospitals and long-term care facilities – particularly in underserved communities. Educating more nurse practitioners, and allowing them to work to their full scope of practice, will go a long way in improving access to care,” says Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union president Janet Hazelton. “Maintaining their salary while in school allows the nurse to study full-time and return to the system sooner than if they were unpaid and studying part-time.” The eligible geographic areas are: Town of Digby, plus 50 kilometre radius of surrounding area Town of Shelburne, plus 50 kilometre radius of surrounding area Cumberland County Pictou County Cape Breton Regional Municipality Inverness County Victoria County Town of Sheet Harbour, plus 50 kilometre radius of surrounding area “I think it’s fantastic the importance and benefit of nurse practitioners and how they contribute to the health and wellness of all Nova Scotians is being recognized,” says Cape Breton registered nurse Chris Browner. “This type of forward thinking will improve access to health care and promote wellness in all areas of the province, including those that may have limited access to primary health-care services.” An arrangement with Cape Breton University will allow students to complete some program requirements locally, minimizing the need to travel to Halifax. “Educating more nurse practitioners will have a positive impact on the primary health-care landscape of the province,” said Dr. Gail Tomblin Murphy, director School of Nursing and Assistant Dean Research Dal Faculty of Health. “We are thrilled to be part of this solution with our partners in government, Nova Scotia Health Authority and Cape Breton University.” Government is also funding an additional 25 seats in Dalhousie’s nurse practitioner program. Fifteen seats will be added this academic year and 10 will be added in 2019-20. The total four-year investment is $1.6 million. “Recruitment has become a challenge in several communities, and this incentive will make a difference in our ability to attract and retain nurse practitioners,” said Carmelle d’Entremont, vice president of People and Organizational Development, Nova Scotia Health Authority. “Nurse practitioners, working with family physicians and other collaborative family practice team members, are enhancing access to comprehensive care for Nova Scotians.” Government will invest $1.4 million in the Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive over two years. These initiatives are part of Nova Scotia’s Nursing Strategy, designed to ensure Nova Scotia has the right number, mix and distribution of nurses now and in the future.