The role of doctors is overstretched. In 2030, nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants will play a prominent role in providing healthcare services. Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with additional training that allows them to perform many of the same functions as family doctors, such as annual physical exams, diagnosis and treatment of routine ailments, and provide counselling on preventive health care along with ordering tests, communicating diagnoses and prescribing medications. Physician’s assistants take a similar role, with their own college which was first established in 1984. As the costs associated with the traditional role of general practitioner (“doctor”) have risen, demand for nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants has risen steadily.
Canada’s growing aging population has increased the demand for nurses and physician’s assistants who specialize in caring for older patients. However, they are still present in every other area of healthcare, from childbirth to heart surgery.
Healthcare has also evolved as technology has changed how and where they work with patients. Telecommunication makes it easier for nurses and physician’s assistants to have relationships with patients who live further away. Documentation such as patient charts, scheduling, or ward or clinic management will become almost entirely digital. However, very little can replace the one-on-one care that only flesh-and-blood people can provide.
Nurse Practitioners in 2030 are still primarily people-oriented, knowledgeable team players able to make quick decisions under pressure. Preparing to become a nurse requires a solid foundation in biological and clinical sciences, paired with extensive hands-on experience. For physician’s assistants, experience with prescribing medicine via telecommunications (known as distance medicine) has become a must, especially as more people are working in the North. Familiarity with new technologies is therefore important both for nurse practitioners and physician’s assistants.