GPs and nurses team up to battle burnout and better support patients

August 20, 2018

As BC moves forward with a team-based care approach to primary care, many family doctors are partnering with nurses in their practices to ease pressures and improve patient access to comprehensive care that best meets their needs. Teaming with nurses also means family doctors have less risk of stress-related issues and burn out, something that is at the forefront of the job on a daily basis.

“As a doctor, I feel better, less likely to burn out, and energized by the partnership with the nurse,” says Surrey-North Delta GP Dr Lawrence Yang. “We’re hearing from patients who say they are impressed with the care team collaboration and communication. There is no doubt they feel better cared for.”
Getting creative and innovative
Across BC, family doctors are getting creative in how they incorporate nurses into their practices, all while taking local needs into consideration.
In the Fraser Health region, doctors are partnering with nurses to provide care for frail elderly patients in their homes. A team-based care model initiated by the Fraser Northwest Division of Family Practice has already had a significant impact. When measured over the course of a year starting in 2016, a single nurse saw 469 patients, preventing more than 500 visits to the emergency room and an estimated 17,000 inpatient days. The success of that experience led to expansion of this model across the region.
“Ultimately there’s a sense of ease for myself as a provider and for my patients and their caregivers,” says Dr Paras Mehta, a family doctor who practices in New Westminster. “I know that my patients are getting the services that they need in a timely way. There will be a quick response and not a trip to emergency.”
In the Central Okanagan, physicians in a Kelowna group practice have partnered with a registered nurse, who provides support in the practice setting.
The benefits to the practice and patient care have been significant. “I feel like I have someone to collaborate with, and I’m not shouldering all of the responsibility of the practice myself,” says Dr Janet Evans. ”Patient feedback has been excellent. Patients have an easier time getting an appointment with me.”
A patient’s perspective
This sentiment is echoed by patient Kim MacLeod: “I feel doubly looked after now,” she says, “It helps make the doctor’s time available for more serious issues that only she can care for.” Ultimately, having a nurse on the team is all about making life better for patients, but the positive benefits extend to the nurses and doctors themselves as well.
With support from nurses, doctors can do more of what they love—building relationships with their patients and spending more of their time on difficult diagnostic dilemmas.”
What new to practice doctors are saying
In a recent panel discussion with new doctors and family residents, new doctors discussed their desire to work in team-based care environments, with nurses and other allied health professionals (a component on the patient medical home) as a way to ensure work-life balance and avoid burnout. Patient medical homes will link to larger networks of specialized care and seamlessly connect patients with continuing support from community services and specialists. In doing so, patients can move smoothly through the system and doctors will feel supported in caring for them.
To read more about family doctors working with nurses as part of a team, click here.  
1Fraser Health Authority comparison of pre-nurse patient baseline acute care utilization data for 365 days with post-intervention data collected for the period January 1 to December 31, 2016