A passion for providing the best care for patients and enhancing access to health care

As a nurse for 42 years, Dawn MacIntosh has worked in most areas of hospital care. After having roles with the Victorian Order of Nurses, the Paq’tnkek Mi’kmaw First Nation and in remote northern communities around the country, she now works in the emergency department at Guysborough Memorial Hospital. 

“I always knew I wanted to be a nurse,” said MacIntosh. “We used to have candy stripers at the hospital, and I started out by doing that.”

MacIntosh graduated from the Aberdeen School of Nursing in 1980, and from St. FX with her post RN BScN in 2009. Now she is a member of Nova Scotia’s first RN prescribing cohort. She noted that her experience in the north prepared her to understand the importance of this advanced role for remote communities in Nova Scotia.

“My passion is to provide the best care I can for my patients and to enhance their access to health care, so I was very excited to hear this opportunity was coming to Nova Scotia,” said MacIntosh. “My manager, Leona Purcell, was very supportive and welcomed the opportunity to have a staff member take the course.”

The Masters-level RN prescribing certificate program has been implemented in collaboration with Dalhousie University to enhance access to prescribers in multiple care settings and in rural Nova Scotia. RN prescribers are able to independently prescribe medications and devices, as well as order relevant screening or diagnostic tests within their specific area of prescribing competence and practice, and for certain patient conditions.

“Those of us who graduated from the initial cohort all have varied job descriptions. For instance, in the emergency room, I mainly treat bladder infections, ear infections, stomach infections, bad backs, and bad knees,” said MacIntosh. “And because Guysborough Memorial Hospital is relatively small, I can also work in the inpatient unit at night.”

MacIntosh noted that the expanded scope has been well received by her colleagues as well as the physicians.

“I believe that this expanded scope enhances the patient’s access to quick and timely care. Emergency departments are seeing an increased number of patients now, as many don’t have a family doctor,” said MacIntosh. “The RN prescriber can help with the backlog of patients waiting to be seen in the ER.”

Looking forward, MacIntosh envisions every emergency department having an RN prescriber. And she sees roles for RN prescribers in primary care and in long-term care facilities. Her advice for RNs interested in the program is to jump in and take it.

“It’s really an exciting expansion of our scope,” said MacIntosh. “I think it’s what we’re well suited to do, and it just leads to more job satisfaction.”

More information on RN prescribing can be found on Nova Scotia Health’s RN Prescribing Library Guide and through the Nova Scotia College of Nursing.

Improving access to health care is a priority at Nova Scotia Health. Our Innovation Hub leads research, innovation, and discovery within Nova Scotia’s healthcare system to deliver high-impact solutions for patients and providers. Through strategic partnerships, we are transforming health care through leading-edge research, the best available evidence, and innovative solutions.