RNs in practice: Supporting vulnerable patients in Fraser Northwest

Family physicians in five Fraser Northwest (FNW) clinics are now working with RNs embedded in their practices as part of the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice’s work to build and strengthen primary care networks in the region. Primary care networks (PCNs) are centred on a team-based approach to primary care—incorporating allied health professionals like nurses, social workers, physiotherapists, and counsellors to support care in physician practices—and the FNW RN in Practice initiative is an important step toward ensuring local physicians can rely on a team of care providers to support vulnerable patients.

The five registered nurses now working in FNW clinics (four in FNW’s New Westminster PCN and one in the Port Moody/Anmore/Belcarra/North Coquitlam PCN) are part of the first phase of the Division’s RN in Practice initiative. Feedback from clinics has been positive so far, with one physician noting a decrease in the burnout and stress he’d been feeling trying to connect patients with resources and supports. Thanks to his practice’s RN Dr Nick Petropolis now feels better able to support some of his most vulnerable patients.

“Our clinic’s RN Sandy was recently able to provide same-day support for a newly pregnant patient in our clinic who has a difficult case of bipolar disorder,” explains Dr Petropolis. “Sandy was able to take extra time with the patient, ensuring she had the resources she needed and was connected to services in the community.” This support enabled Dr Petropolis to fit the patient in that day when he would not have been able to otherwise, allowing him to focus on providing the critical care she needed without delay, and put his mind at ease knowing she would not be lost to care due to her mental health condition.

The Division is taking a phased approach to the RN in Practice initiative, in order to learn what works and identify opportunities for improvement that can be implemented in the next phases of the initiative’s implementation. Fraser Northwest division appreciates the strong collaborative relationship with Fraser Health and other local stakeholders in making the RN in Practice initiative and other PCN projects possible. Executive Director Kristan Ash explains, “Primary Care Networks are about implementing a system of care to wrap around the family physician and their patients. Our strategy was to take the initial resources and start deploying as soon as we could. In a few short weeks the feedback we’ve received has been overwhelmingly filled with gratitude ... and we just got started!”