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Q&A with nurse practitioner Jean Wilson

Toronto, May 15, 2015

By Heather Brown

Jean Wilson
Jean Wilson, lead nurse practitioner for the St. Michel’s Hospital, Academic Family Health Team, St. Lawrence Health Centre Site. (Photo by Yuri Markarov)

Jean Wilson was the first nurse practitioner hired at the St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team almost four years ago. Five more have been hired since. Wilson was drawn to St. Michael’s because of its mission and values and her passion for caring for vulnerable patients. Here is what she had to say about being a nurse practitioner.

Q. Tell us about your role.
As a primary care nurse practitioner I provide health assessments, diagnose illnesses or other ailments a patient may have, order blood work, x-rays and ultrasounds and prescribe medication (except for controlled substances). I also conduct home visits with some of my patients, run health and wellness programs, such as our Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease and prenatal programs, and provide support to the health centre team by seeing patients usually seen by a different clinician who is being fit in for a same day or next day appointment because of an unexpected illness or issue.

Q. What do nurse practitioners and nurses have in common?
We are both nurses. Although I identify as a nurse practitioner I started my career as a registered nurse and the care that I provide to my patients is done through a nursing lens. All nurses, whether they are a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner, are educated to provide care in a holistic way. This means we look at the whole person instead of zeroing in on one particular ailment. We work with our patients to get to the root of their problem and try to determine what other social or emotional factors in their life might be contributing to their illness or conditions.

Q. What is the difference between a nurse practitioner and a physician?
The biggest difference is that physicians have a broader scope of practice and can order certain tests that nurse practitioners can’t such as magnetic resonance imaging and CAT scans. They can also prescribe narcotics.

We work collaboratively with the physicians and other clinicians at the St. Michael’s Hospital Academic Family Health Team. When a patient requires more care than I can provide I consult with the physicians for their guidance and recommended treatment approach.

Q. What do you do in your spare time?
Now that spring is here I am looking forward to getting back into my garden. My husband and I have also started a sommelier course at George Brown. We’ve learned a lot about wine making and tasting and we look forward to putting our knowledge to practice.

About St. Michael's Hospital

St. Michael’s Hospital provides compassionate care to all who enter its doors. The hospital also provides outstanding medical education to future health care professionals in 27 academic disciplines. Critical care and trauma, heart disease, neurosurgery, diabetes, cancer care, care of the homeless and global health are among the hospital’s recognized areas of expertise. Through the Keenan Research Centre and the Li Ka Shing International Healthcare Education Centre, which make up the Li Ka Shing Knowledge Institute, research and education at St. Michael's Hospital are recognized and make an impact around the world. Founded in 1892, the hospital is fully affiliated with the University of Toronto.