News release

Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive Expanded to Improve Primary Care Access

Government is expanding a program designed to help ensure Nova Scotia has the nurse practitioners it needs to help improve Nova Scotians’ access to primary care.

The Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive covers the salaries of six registered nurses while they attend Dalhousie University’s two-year Master of Nursing nurse practitioner program full-time. In return, recipients will commit to work in one of several designated communities for five years.

“Supporting more registered nurses to become nurse practitioners will fill a growing workforce need and improve Nova Scotians’ access to primary care,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “There are registered nurses who took part in the first round of this incentive program who are now nurse practitioners working in smaller, underserved communities.”

An expression of interest will be issued to those already accepted to Dalhousie’s nurse practitioner program, family all-ages stream. Recipients will be selected based on whether they live in or are affiliated with one of the designated communities and are willing to relocate upon completion of the program. Recipients must commit to work in one of the designated communities for five years.

This expands on the 10 spaces announced in 2018. Three of those participants have graduated and are working as nurse practitioners in Digby, Cumberland County and Victoria County.

Four more will graduate this fall and will practice in Shelburne, Cape Breton County, Inverness and Pictou, and the final three will graduate next May and will practice in Cumberland County, Digby and Sheet Harbour.

The eligible geographic areas for the additional six spaces are:

  • Inverness, 60 km radius including the town and surrounding area
  • Caledonia, 60 km radius including the community and surrounding area
  • Truro, 60 km radius including the town and surrounding area
  • Shelburne, 60 km radius including the town and surrounding area
  • Pugwash, 60 km radius including the community and surrounding area
  • Guysborough or Canso, 60 km radius including the towns and surrounding areas

An arrangement between Dalhousie and Cape Breton University will continue to allow students in Cape Breton to complete some program requirements locally, minimizing the need to travel to Halifax.

Quotes:

Having worked in the Digby emergency department, I recognized the need for primary care to promote and protect the wellbeing of our community. This is one of the many reasons why I wanted to become a nurse practitioner. I look forward to accepting new patients and developing a practice in the place I’ve called home for most of my life. Yarrow Merritt, nurse practitioner, Digby Collaborative Family Practice Team

Today’s announcement is great news, especially for rural Nova Scotia as these new nurse practitioners are committed to working there. It’s also in line with our 2019 Nursing Potential report which recommended government continue to invest in nurses so that underserviced areas receive the care they deserve. Educating more nurses in the nurse practitioner program gets us closer to achieving NSNU’s goal of having a 500-strong nurse practitioner network across all sectors of care, based on our projected needs, by 2028. Janet Hazelton, president, Nova Scotia Nurses’ Union

Quick Facts:

  • this is one of several initiatives underway to improve Nova Scotians’ access to primary care, including additional family medicine residency spaces, a practice-ready assessment program, and a streamlined immigration process for doctors
  • government will invest $900,000 over two years in this round of the Nurse Practitioner Education Incentive
  • this initiative is part of Nova Scotia’s Nursing Strategy, designed to ensure Nova Scotia has the right number, mix and distribution of nurses now and in the future

Additional Resources:

Nova Scotia Nursing Strategy: https://novascotia.ca/dhw/nurses/

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Media Contact:

Heather Fairbairn
Cell: 902-717-2151 Email: