Like many professions, the role of nursing is constantly changing. Advances in technology and education mean the nursing role is rapidly evolving as nurses are tasked with an even wider range of health care responsibilities.

There are many different types of nurses including licensed practical nurses, registered nurses, neonatal nurses, emergency room nurses, psychiatric nurses and more.

May 8 to 14 is National Nursing Week in Canada and Powell River Living caught up with Nurse Practitioner Erin Berukoff recently to chat with her about her career in nursing.

What is a nurse practitioner?

A nurse practitioner (NP) is a Masters-prepared registered nurse whose additional education and nursing experience allows them to autonomously diagnose and treat certain medical conditions without the direct supervision of a doctor.  

A NP can order and interpret tests; prescribe medications and perform medical procedures. 

NP’s take a holistic view of health when working with patients, taking care of the physical, emotional, and social aspects of a person’s health. 

The BC government enacted legislation in 2005, granting NPs license to practice autonomously.

How did you become a nurse practitioner?

From the time I  was seven, I knew I wanted to be a nurse. ER and Rescue 911 were my favourite shows growing up.

I graduated in 2002 from BCIT at the age of 21 with a diploma in nursing. 

I went back to school and did my degree through UVic and graduated in 2006 while doing emergency training at the same time. 

I have lived in Powell River for ten years and spent 15 years working as a nurse in Cranbrook and Nanaimo and in emergency and ambulatory care in Powell River. 

I taught the Licensed Practical Nurse program at Vancouver Island University from 2008 to 2010. I graduated as a nurse practitioner with my Master’s Degree in Advanced Practice Nursing as a family nurse practitioner in 2013 and have been working in Powell River for Vancouver Coastal Health since September 2014. At the same time I had two babies.

Tell us about your journey from being a nurse to being a NP.

I don’t like working 12 hour shifts and I hate night shifts. I wanted to be autonomous and I love learning new things. 

I knew about nurse practitioners while I was doing my degree at UVic and one of my instructors encouraged me to carry on with nursing and asked me if I’d thought about becoming a nurse practitioner. I love nursing.

While training as an NP, I worked out of Dr. Rossouw’s office for a while. He helped me bridge into working independently and autonomously. 

What do you do now?

I run the primary health care clinic out of Family Tree Health. I have about 270 patients who are attached to me as their primary health care provider. 

I do elder outreach in the community and a women’s health clinic once a month. Basically I book appointments and see patients in the family practice office. 

A lot of my patients are the frail, elderly, socially complex, mental health and chronic disease management type patients and my focus is on patient education, health promotion, and chronic disease management from a holistic nursing perspective. 

I assess, make medical diagnosis, refer to specialists, order medications and lab work. It’s very similar to what a GP does.

How is a nurse practitioner different than a GP?

Nurse Practitioners learn and practice from a nursing perspective through a caring model. There is a focus on the holistic approach to care. 

We look at the whole patient and how their life affects their health. I’m well versed on a lot of the common, acute, episodic and chronic diseases but I might not be able to diagnose an uncommon condition. I would know if something was abnormal and would refer to the appropriate specialist. We collaborate with GPs, specialists and other multi-disciplinary health care providers.

What do you love about nursing?

As a nurse practitioner I get to spend time with my patients and learn about them and their life. 

Together we can build a plan to improve their health. This is what excites me. I’m able to empower patients to make changes for their health.

It’s exciting to see those steps being taken and the outcomes that they have.

Is there anything else you’d like to share?

This was part of a pilot project with VCH, the Division of Family Practice and Family Tree Health. 

The pilot project has been successful and now we (Family Tree Health and Erin) are working on a Nurse Practitioner integration plan where we can collaborate and provide access to all clinic patients together through cross coverage, referrals and consultations. We use a team approach to care.  

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