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Nurse practitioners to help strengthen primary care

Premier Danielle Smith and Health Minister Adriana LaGrange provided details about a nurse practitioner compensation model that will give Albertans more access to the primary care they need.

Alberta’s government is committed to stabilizing, strengthening and improving Alberta’s primary health care system. Every Albertan should be able to access primary care when and where they need it. To help achieve this goal, the government is expanding opportunities for nurse practitioners.

Through the Nurse Practitioner Primary Care Program, nurse practitioners will receive approximately 80 per cent of the compensation provided to family physicians who provide comprehensive primary care. Compensation will be determined based on panel size (the number of patients a nurse practitioner sees) and the number of patient care hours provided. The program will enable nurse practitioners to practise comprehensive patient care autonomously and operate their own practices, or to practise autonomously in existing primary care clinics.

“Nurse practitioners are a welcome and integral part of the solution to improving access to primary health care services. Finalizing this funding model is an exciting step forward in our journey to refocus health care in Alberta, and I’m looking forward to this expansion of health care services.”

Danielle Smith, Premier

To be eligible for compensation through the $15-million program, nurse practitioners must meet a number of requirements, including committing to provide medically necessary primary care services, having a panel size of at least 900 patients, providing after-hours access on weekends, evenings or holidays, and accepting walk-in appointments as they build a panel size of 900 patients. The minimum panel size of 900 is consistent with the British Columbia model.   

The nurse practitioner program is structured to incentivize higher patient attachment as compensation for nurse practitioners increases as their panel size grows. This, in combination with the other incentives including the Panel Management Support Program, will help to support the more than 700,000 Albertans who are currently not attached to a primary health care provider.

“This program is exciting news for Albertans. It not only increases health care capacity in communities across the province but also provides more Albertans with access to a regular primary care provider and will help take pressure off the rest of the health system. Supporting nurse practitioners to do more of the work they are trained to do is another tool we’re using to stabilize and strengthen primary health care throughout Alberta.”

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Health

Clinics, communities and Primary Care Networks can partner with nurse practitioners who are just entering practice by applying for one-time mentorship funding. Each mentor is eligible for $10,000 during a nurse practitioner’s first 18 months to ensure a successful transition to independent practice. 

“Many Albertans are still without access to a primary care provider. With 900 nurse practitioners in Alberta, there is an opportunity to significantly improve access to primary care services. This is the right next step in a marathon of change that is necessary for our primary care system. I look forward to continuing this work to ensure the success and viability of these practices and improving access to primary care services for Albertans.”

Jennifer Mador, president, Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta

Nurse practitioners interested in practising through this program can now submit an expression of interest to Alberta Health. Each expression of interest will be evaluated, and nurse practitioners who meet the requirements will be sent an application form. Through a $2-million grant over the next three years, the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta will help nurse practitioners throughout the application process, recruit nurse practitioners to participate in the program and support them as they plan to work independently in an existing practice or set up their own clinics.

“By providing more options for rural and remote communities to access primary care by way of nurse practitioners, we will ensure all Albertans have the ability to get the care they need when and where they need it, ultimately providing better health outcomes.”

Martin Long, parliamentary secretary for rural health

“The new compensation model for nurse practitioners will strengthen Alberta’s primary care system and ensure more Albertans get access to care they need, when and where they need it. This is great news for patients and nurse practitioners.”

Chelsae Petrovic, parliamentary secretary for health workforce engagement

Quick facts

  • Nurse practitioners have completed graduate studies and are regulated by the College of Registered Nurses of Alberta. Like other regulated professions, all nurse practitioners must meet minimum requirements to practise and follow practice standards set by their regulatory college.
  • Compensation will be pro-rated for partial hours worked if it is fewer than 1,928 clinical hours.
  • Participating nurse practitioners are eligible for the Rural, Remote and Northern Program that provides funding as an incentive to practise in rural areas.
  • There will be a one-time incentive payment of $75 for each new patient once nurse practitioners reach a panel size of 900, until the $2 million that has been allocated for the panel growth incentive has been reached for the current fiscal year.
  • There will be a minimum of three to five spots set aside in the program for nurse practitioners working on First Nations reserves or Metis Settlements. First Nation communities, Indigenous clinics and other Indigenous organizations can submit joint applications with a nurse practitioner to help them increase their panel size, help with administrative costs and provide wraparound services.