The future of seniors' care in Lethbridge

Margaret Pommen, a St. Therese Villa resident in Lethbridge, was recovering from surgery at her daughter’s home in Calgary and decided to extend her stay, which meant she would run out of medication.

The decision to stay in Calgary was made on a Sunday, when physicians can be hard to reach to renew prescriptions.

Thanks to an on-site nurse practitioner back at St. Therese, she was able to get a new medication order sent to a Calgary pharmacy within minutes.

The addition of nurse practitioners to the Seniors' Health team in two Covenant Health facilities in Lethbridge is preventing the need for residents in Assisted Living to call their physician to renew a prescription and even use Emergency departments.

Nurse practitioners are registered nurses with advanced education who are licensed to practice in Alberta. They blend nursing knowledge with the ability to diagnose and treat health conditions, order tests and prescribe medications.

Nurse Practitioners Nicole Kinniburgh and Klaas Vanden Beld support residents at St. Therese Villa and St. Michael’s Health Centre in Lethbridge. The introduction of the pair is reducing the frequency of residents having to go to Emergency departments for care.

Nicole Kinniburgh and Klaas Vanden Beld are two nurse practitioners working at St. Therese Villa and St. Michael’s Health Centre whose goal is to work as a resource and support for the healthcare team and seniors within continuing care.

Klaas’ specialty in wound care is also part of his nurse practitioner role.

“My work is focused in two areas,” he says. “One is at St. Therese Villa, working with the home care nurses to assess, diagnose, prescribe and treat residents. The other part of my work is to support clients with complex wounds that require nurse practitioner intervention.” Klaas was the nurse practitioner who ordered Margaret’s prescription to be sent to Calgary.

 “Klaas was efficient and able to respond quickly, which was such a relief for myself and our family,” said Margaret’s son Gord.

“With the nurse practitioners on site, we want to provide better care to our frail elderly and help reduce some of those non-emergent emergency visits by utilizing the nurse practitioner's scope of practice to address some of the gaps our seniors are facing,” says Karen Fritz, Manager, Quality Patient Care. “Mobility issues and other factors can make it hard for them to go to the doctor sometimes.”

“I see the nurse practitioners as really being that next phase in the evolution of seniors' care, particularly facility-based seniors' care,” says Covenant Health’s Nancy Campbell, who was the Site Administrator at St. Therese Villa and St. Michael’s at the time of the interview. “We are unique here—the collaboration piece is key because we are in this together.”

Campbell says the team knows they will never be able to prevent 100 per cent of emergency visits and that, at times, the Emergency department is where a resident does need to be assessed.

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