CP Exclusive: Nurses Should Order Tests, Diagnose Common Ailments: Report

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CP Exclusive: Give nurses more powers: report

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TORONTO - Ontario should allow nurses to perform more tasks, from diagnosing common ailments like throat and ear infections to managing and prescribing drugs, such as birth control pills, says a new report obtained by The Canadian Press.

The 116-page report, to be released Thursday by the Registered Nurses' Association of Ontario, provides a step-by-step, three-year plan to expand the scope of practice for nurses.

Nurses should be able to order diagnostic and lab tests, as well as interpret and communicate the results of those tests to patients, the report said. That will ensure nurses have all the information they need in order to prescribe medication.

The report also recommends that nurses be able to manage chronic illnesses for patients with whom they've developed long-term therapeutic relationships.

Many registered nurses and registered practical nurses aren't performing all the tasks they're capable of doing, the report found.

"Clearly there is untapped potential in Ontario's primary care system with a significant nursing workforce waiting and eager to be fully utilized and take on expanded roles," it said.

Some nurses are already performing some of these duties -- such as prescribing medication in remote northern communities and sexual health clinics, the report said.

But they can only do it under medical orders, when they should be able to do it independently within a health team, said Doris Grinspun, chief executive officer of the association.

In nurse practitioner-led clinics, nurses can order tests to diagnose ear infections. But if antibiotics are required, the nurse must go to the nurse practitioner or doctor.

Following through on the recommendations will make the health-care system more efficient and contain health costs for a province that's facing a $15-billion deficit this year, said Grinspun.

If the proposed plan is fully implemented by 2015, patients would be able to receive same-day access anywhere in the province within six months, she said. …