Primary and Community Care

Primary and community care includes the basic health care services that people access through primary care providers such as family doctors, nurse practitioners, and other members of the Interprofessional team.

Primary health care is about:

  • Prevention and health promotion services and supporting people to be well (disease and injury free)
  • Supporting people and families to manage chronic disease, like diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Supporting people and families to take a more active role in their own care (patient as partner approach)
  • Effective use of the expertise of all health care professionals
  • Efficiency and coordination in service delivery
  • Supporting people who have mental health and problematic substance use issues
  • Supporting people and families with maternal care (prenatal, perinatal, and postpartum)

Person and Family Centred Health Care

Northern Health is committed to working with physicians and the Divisions of Family Practice to implement a model of primary and community health care service delivery that is centered on the person and their family.

This approach involves creating interprofessional teams who work in collaboration with primary care providers to provide a range of health care services. This model of service delivery will increase the quality of care by providing continuity of care over time and across settings and result in better long-term health outcomes.

How is Northern Health making sure care is centred on you and your family?

Interprofessional teams are being put in place in communities across northern British Columbia. These teams will work closely with primary care physicians and nurse practitioners to accomplish shared health care goals with the person and their family.

In addition, to ensure safe and comprehensive care, relevant “need-to-know” information can be shared with physicians and other care providers, departments, and facilities within Northern Health who demonstrate they’re directly involved in your ongoing care. This group is known as the circle of care. The circle of care can include members on the interprofessional team.


What is a primary care home?

A primary care home is a person-centred medical care setting, such as a family doctor’s office, where people establish a long-term relationship with a personal physician or nurse practitioner who provides and directs their medical care.

Interprofessional teams are available to the person and family if the person and their primary care provider, including the primary care nurse decide together that the person might benefit from team involvement.


What is an interprofessional team in the community?

Interprofessional teams in the community are made up of a variety of health care professionals who work with a person’s doctor or nurse practitioner to support their total care. Referrals to the team will be based on the person’s health care needs.

Interprofessional teams in the community may include:

  • A physician and/or nurse practitioner
  • Team leader
  • Primary care nurse
  • Mental health clinician
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Life skills worker
  • Licenced practical nurse
  • Primary care assistant
  • First Nations clinician (First Nations Health Authority)

Will this approach replace visits to my primary care provider (family doctor or nurse practitioner)?

Physicians will continue to be primary care providers for people who have a family doctor. People will be assisted by an interprofessional team if they have more complex needs and require additional support and care to maintain their health.


How will health care delivery improve under this model?

The benefits of taking a person and family centred approach to health care include:

  • Supporting continuity of care over time and across settings;
  • Reducing pressure on emergency rooms; and
  • Making health care more sustainable over the long-term.

This approach will increase the quality of care, especially for:

  • The frail elderly;
  • Perinatal (the period immediately before and after birth);
  • Those with mental health and problematic substance use issues;
  • People with one or more complex chronic diseases; and
  • Children with complex health issues.

Nurse Practitioners

Nurse Practitioners (NPs) are registered nurses (RNs) with advanced special training who provide comprehensive health care, such as diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries, prescribing medications, ordering and interpreting lab and diagnostic tests, and ordering referrals to specialists. Nurse Practitioners are important members of Northern Health’s Interprofessional Teams.


What is the Nurse Practitioner scope of practice?

Nurse Practitioners work independently and aren’t supervised by doctors. However, as part of their education, Nurse Practitioners learn when and how to consult and work with other health care professionals. If your Nurse Practitioner feels that your care needs are beyond what they are trained to provide, he or she will refer you to a family doctor or specialist.

What is the role of a NP in a primary care home?

  • Examine you and diagnose common health problems
  • Prescribe medication
  • Refer you to a specialist
  • Order tests and interpret their results
  • Screen for chronic disease
  • Provide wellness care / health promotion
  • Provide education and counselling

What are the educational and practice requirements for Nurse Practitioners?
  • Undergraduate degree in nursing
  • At least 2 years nursing practice before applying to the graduate program
  • Graduate degree with a focus on Nurse Practitioner clinical education
  • Graduate level education is available in every province
  • In BC, graduate level education is available at University of Northern BC, University of Victoria, and University of BC.

Do Nurse Practitioners specialize?

Nurse Practitioners choose one of three areas:

  • Family (all ages)
  • Adult
  • Pediatric

In BC, the training is specific to the family stream, however there are two other streams of education, acute and pediatric.