Excitement stirring around province’s LTC nurse practitioner announcement

NPSTAT’s success is telling of good things to come

Given the success nurse practitioners (NPs) have had reducing long-term care homes-to-hospital transfers within the Central East Local Health Integration Network (Central East LHIN), Michelle Acorn, lead NP for Lakeridge Health Whitby, says she’s pleased with the Ontario government’s recent announcement to increase NPs’ presence in the long-term care home sector.

On March 3, the province made the blockbuster announcement that it will provide funding to Ontario long-term care homes for 75 in-home NPs over the next three years. The first 15 NPs will be funded this year.

But NPs are not new to long-term care. The Central East LHIN’s Nurse Practitioners Supporting Teams Averting Transfers (NPSTAT) program has been a shining example of the immense value NPs bring to people living in long-term care homes, says Acorn.

Through the NPSTAT program, NPs visit long-term care homes within the Central East LHIN to address resident needs that cannot be met by a home’s nursing staff alone. NPs work with long-term care homes to provide on-site care and treatment for acute medical issues that might otherwise result in transfer to hospital. Additionally, NPSTAT works collaboratively with homes to build capacity and skills among front-line staff to help meet the needs of increasingly complex residents.

“Our NPs are partners in long-term care,” says Jeffrey Gardner, Program Director for NPSTAT at the Central East Community Care Access Centre. “We work with the homes to ensure their residents safely receive the right care at the right place at the right time.”

Based on the success she has seen stem from the NPSTAT program, Acorn says the ministry’s announcement has the potential to go a long way to improving the quality of life for long-term care residents.

“This is exciting and I applaud the ministry for this,” Acorn says of the announcement. “Having a nurse practitioner in the homes at all times will improve continuity of care (and) build capacity for knowledge with entire teams.

“(Long-term care homes) will have a dedicated person who becomes a senior expert who can teach and role model and mentor other people, while reducing the number of people having to go to emergency departments, so this is significant.”

Frost Manor, a long-term care home in Lindsay, has participated in the NPSTAT program for about four years.

Nancy Lafete, a charge nurse at the home, says the support NP Sarah Reynolds brings to the team through the NPSTAT program has helped decrease hospital transfers and improved quality of life for residents.

Having to make a home-to-hospital transfer for anyone can be an unpleasant experience, but it can be especially traumatic for people who have a cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Lafete says.

The NPSTAT program is accomplishing its mission of enhancing quality of life for people while easing the burden on emergency rooms, Lafete says.

“It’s really nice to have that support,” Lafete says. “The residents . . . stay comfortable here in their own surroundings; (the program) is working very well.”

Like Acorn, Lafete says she sees a lot of promise in the province providing 75 in-house NPs to the province’s long-term care sector.

“I’m excited about that,” she says. “Having the extra hands-on working with the team will be a benefit for the residents.”

Gardner is equally supportive, “Excellent primary health care is the key to keeping residents safe at home. That means timely and comprehensive assessment, early intervention, and ongoing monitoring for residents as well as support for their families and the health care team. Nurse practitioners, on-site full-time, as collaborative partners in care are a recipe for that kind of success.”

Innovative services and programs, such as NPSTAT, first introduced as part of the LHIN’s second Integrated Health Service Plan, have made a huge impact on reducing the amount of time spent by local residents in the LHIN’s hospital emergency departments.

Now the Central East LHIN is currently implementing its third Integrated Health Service Plan (IHSP), setting out a shared goal for the local health care system to help Central East LHIN residents spend more time in their homes and their communities.

Improving health care for seniors is a top priority for the Central East LHIN. Together with health service providers such as Michelle, Jeffrey, Nancy, Sarah and other stakeholders, the LHIN is actively working on the “Community First – Seniors Aim”.

To learn more about NPSTAT, please click on “Get Connected with Care – NPSTAT.” 

The NPSTAT program is also one of the LHIN’s Regional Specialized Geriatric Services. To learn more about the development of a system of care for frail seniors, please click on “Planning – Regional Specialized Geriatric Services.” 

Submitted by Deron Hamel, Axiom News.  To contact Deron, please contact deron@axionnews.ca.