Primary and community care

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

Primary health care is about:

  • Prevention and health promotion 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 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 centred on the person and their family.

This approach involves creating health care teams, which include your doctor or nurse practitioner and other health care professionals, to provide a range of health care services. This will increase the quality of care by providing continuity of care over time and across settings, and will result in better long-term health outcomes.


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

Health care teams are being put in place in communities across northern British Columbia. These teams include family doctors and nurse practitioners, with everyone working to achieve shared health care goals with the person and their family.

As well, to ensure safe and complete care, information about your health might be shared with doctors and other care providers, departments, or facilities in Northern Health who are directly involved in your care. This group is called the circle of care. It can include members of the health care team.


What's 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 doctor or nurse practitioner who provides and directs their medical care.

If you and your doctor or nurse practitioner decide together that you might benefit, other health care professionals on the team can also be involved. 


What's a health care team?

These community teams consist of a variety of health care professionals, including your doctor or nurse practitioner, to support your total care. Referrals to the team will be based on your health care needs.

As well as your doctor or nurse practitioner, health care teams may include: 

  • Team leader
  • Primary care nurse
  • Mental health and substance use professional
  • Social worker
  • Occupational therapist
  • Physiotherapist
  • Life skills worker
  • Licensed practical nurse
  • Primary care assistant
  • Traditional healers

You can contact your team directly to find out what services they offer. 


Will this replace visits to my family doctor or nurse practitioner?

You'll still have appointments with your doctor or nurse practitioner. If you need more help to maintain your health, you'll also be supported by the additional members on the health care team described above. 


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
  • Making health care more sustainable over the long-term

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

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

Nurse practitioners

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses (RNs) with advanced special training who provide comprehensive health care, such as diagnosing and treating common illnesses and injuries, prescribing medications for you, ordering and interpreting your lab and diagnostic tests, and referring you to specialists. Nurse practitioners are important members of Northern Health’s teams of health care professionals.

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

What can nurse practitioners do?

Nurse practitioners work independently and aren’t supervised by doctors. However, as part of their education, they 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, they'll refer you to a family doctor or specialist.

What's the role of a nurse practitioner 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

Do nurse practitioners specialize?

Nurse practitioners choose one of three areas:

  • Family (all ages)
  • Adult
  • Pediatric

In BC, training is specific to the family stream.


More information