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Family Physicians and Healthcare Services in Fort McMurray 

International Nursing Week 2015

"Me? Med, Surg, Peds, Emerg."
"We're close! Med, Surg, CCU, ICU, LTC, Psych."
"I was ICU, Med, Surg, and Ambulatory."

Genevieve Senecal-Phinn, Nicole Farewell, and Sharlene Regular rattle off their diverse nursing backgrounds in breathless shorthand. In more familiar language: Medicine, Surgery, Pediatric, Emergency, Intensive Care, Ambulatory Care, Critical Care, Long-Term Care, and Psychiatric Care. Notably, these are all departments found in a hospital.

And yet, their origin stories conclude identically: "And then I left the hospital environment to come here, to the Primary Care Network."

"Nurses like to move around; you need to, in order to find your niche," explains Genevieve, "I've been here a year now, and I can't see myself practicing anywhere else anytime soon."

To celebrate 2015's International Nursing Week, we brought Genevieve, Nicole, and Sharlene together to discuss what makes their clinical practice at the PCN unique, and what the general public might not know about their profession and how they contribute to patient care.

"When I worked at the hospital, I would provide patients with discharge care plans that outlined what they should do next in order to safeguard their health, but I had no way of knowing whether or not they followed-up," Sharlene comments, "but at the PCN, I get to explore those issues. I see the same patients who were ill at the hospital, but now, I'm the one that gets to follow them and help them to recover."

Nicole is actively involved in the PCN's Insulin Pump and Diabetes program, and also works in close collaboration with Dr. Robert Hauptman, a Chronic Pain specialist, in the Chronic Pain Program. "People are surprised at first when they discover that I'm not simply telling them what to do; I strive to figure out what their health goals are, and how I can help them to achieve them. We become partners in care; it's best practice, as the nature of chronic disease is that self-management is the surest path to long-term wellbeing."

Genevieve, too, enjoys the continuity of care that the PCN enables: "It's a different pace. I spend a lot of time learning about patients and their histories and developing a trusting relationship with them. I get to develop recommendations over time; our patients have time to learn, after many visits, that we invest a lot of time trying to discover what will work for them as individuals."

"Constant education and research is a very prominent component of our working lives here," Nicole reflects, "it allows us to really delve into the science of our patients' illnesses, and to play an active role in their care. I'm able to explore a wide range of therapeutic approaches, all guided by the latest research, to create change."

Nurses at the PCN provide care that is much different from the care provided by a nurse in a hospital; they help to develop care plans and to provide patients with education and health counseling in partnership with the family physicians of Fort McMurray, the leaders of the PCN. Genevieve offers a helpful distinction: "In the hospital, nurses address the urgent needs of someone with an acute illness. They're there to react to emergencies. At the PCN, we're helping to prevent them in the first place."

There are nine RNs and three LPNs in the WBPCN’s Clinical Team, and they work alongside family physicians, pharmacists, dietitians, respiratory therapists, exercise specialists, and behavioral health therapists; they provide care for survivors of heart attacks and strokes, and patients with Diabetes and other chronic diseases.

While the focus of the Primary Care Network is solely community-based -- none of our programs or services involve acute, hospital-based care -- what we truly enjoy about International Nursing Week is the opportunity to appreciate the entire spectrum of nursing care.

The professional background of our own Executive Director, Lori Apostal, offers an all-too convenient example: "As a long-time critical care nurse, I can certainly appreciate the environments that acute care nurses work in; every day, they work under considerable pressure in a system that is quite literally bursting at the seams. The nurses who choose to work in that environment do their best every day to aid in patients' recovery and to optimize their health status.

"Some nurses love the fast-paced environment of acute care, whereas others find their niche in primary care. Regardless of the environment that nurses choose to work in, what I know to be true is that they are doing the best that they can with the resources that they have available, always striving relentlessly towards the ultimate goal of helping patients to reach their optimal level of health."

"To compare acute care with the care provided by Primary Care Networks is to compare apples and oranges, to miss the forest for the trees; at every level of care here in Alberta, we have dedicated nurses who have found areas of practice that they are passionate about, and they are working tirelessly to care for and guide patients along every step of their journey."

Your Health. Our Passion.

In 2006, all of Fort McMurray's Family Physicians banded together to form one network - the Wood Buffalo Primary Care Network (WBPCN) - to provide comprehensive healthcare and specialized services to all local residents. In Fort McMurray, the WBPCN:
  • Operates an After Hours Walk-in Clinic
  • Conducts Chronic Disease Management programs for those with Diabetes, Cardiovascular Disease, and Obesity.
  • Helps to connect local residents with family physicians.
  • Maintains an interdisciplinary team of Nurses, Pharmacists, Counselors, Dietitians, and Exercise Specialists that are accessible to all patients.
  • Provides comfortable and convenient preventive health screening services for women.
The WBPCN is committed to providing patient-centered health care services that are tailored to what our unique community actually needs. We believe that we are strongest not as individual practitioners working in isolation, but as a unified team, a professional family responsible for maintaining a medical home for all residents of Fort McMurray. Whether you have lived here for years, or only just recently arrived, we would like to extend to you a warm invitation to access our services. Everyone has a home in Fort McMurray's Community of Care.

Why should you become attached to a local Family Physician?

Video courtesy of Towards Optimized Practice.

There is a longstanding myth here in Fort McMurray that Family Physicians are hard to come by. Nothing could be further from the truth; in fact, there are currently 12 doctors accepting new patients. Access to Primary Care is free for Albertans as long as you have registered for the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.

Every resident of Fort McMurray stands to benefit from being attached to a local family physician, whether or not you're a newcomer, only live here part time, or have been a member of our community for years.

Not only do residents who have a regular family physician enjoy better health and fewer hospitalizations than their unattached peers (Health Quality Council of Alberta), they also have access to a wide variety of other healthcare programs and services only available to those with a family physician.

Take the first step to safeguard and improve your wellbeing in Fort McMurray - find a Family Physician accepting new patients.

 Contact Us!

WBPCN Central Clinic Site
9908 Penhorwood Street
8:30am-4:30pm M-F
Fort McMurray, AB.
T9H 3N3

p. 780-788-1765
f. 780-788-1764

WBPCN After Hours Clinic

#327 - 8600 Franklin Ave
5:00pm-10:00pm M-F
10:00am-10:00pm Saturday
12:00pm-6:00pm Sunday

Fort McMurray, AB.
T9H 4G8

p. 780-743-3900
f. 780-743-3901

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Primary Care Initiative Government of Alberta Alberta Health Services Alberta Medical Association