For many of us, most of our contact with the health care system will be through appointments with our family doctor. We call it primary care because it’s where we go first to access the care that we need.
That regular contact we have with someone who comes to know us, and our health, over time is important to helping us stay well. And because of this ongoing relationship, they recognize when our health is changing, and can better support us to manage illnesses.
But sometimes it’s hard to get in to your family practice when you need to. And some people don’t have a doctor or nurse practitioner at all.
We’re working hard to recruit more family doctors—but the solution to improving access to care is more than that. Part of the reason it can be hard to get in to your family practice, or find a new one, is that many doctors work alone, and already have as many patients as they can safely care for. They also work in other places, such as at our local emergency department, caring for patients staying in the hospital, or in nursing homes.
You may have heard discussion of family practice teams. This is an approach where not all of your primary care comes from your doctor. Instead, your doctor is part of a team that could include a nurse practitioner, family practice nurse, social worker, dietitian, physiotherapist, or a range of other health professionals.
As a patient of a family practice team, you can get support from the person with the right skills to meet your needs. And with several professionals available to support patients, a team can take on more patients and provide quicker access.
As we work to attract and hire new doctors, we’re hearing from them that working in a team matches what they want to do—working and learning from colleagues, spending time with the patients who need them most, and drawing on the different skills of others to provide the best support to keep patients well.
There are a number of these teams already in the province, and we are working to create more, by adding nurses and other health care providers to existing family practices to work with doctors. Following this team-based approach will help Nova Scotians see the benefits that people in other parts of Canada and around the world are enjoying, including better care for patients, more satisfaction for providers, and improved overall quality and functioning of the whole health care system.