“Over the past year and a half, it's been pretty frustrating to have to leave town when at the same time people say to 'My doctor left town, can I come to see you?'” she says.
In fact, there are six other local nurse practitioners in the city besides Butcher who can't find jobs in their field.
Butcher and other nurse practitioners successfully lobbied for their own clinic with the help of local politicians and the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario (RNAO).
The health care professionals could solve some of the problems associated with the family doctor shortage in the city because they can do about 80 percent of the work done by physicians, including prescribing drugs and diagnosing illnesses.
“We'd had discussions with the ministry for a few weeks prior to the announcement. The fact that they wanted to discuss the situation with us was a welcome surprise,” says Butcher.
“We were anticipating the announcement at the time that it came, but we, of course, were sworn to secrecy because (Health and Long-Term Care Minister George Smitherman) gets to make the announcements.”
The clinic will serve up to 5,000 patients. Butcher hopes it will be open by April 2007. Six nurse practitioners, several doctors, a dietitian and a social worker will be employed there.
The clinic will have its main location in the downtown core of Greater Sudbury and satellite locations Dowling and Chapleau. Nurse practitioners will work on salary instead of receiving fee-for-service payments like doctors.
They haven't pinpointed a building for the downtown Sudbury clinic, but Dowling and Chapleau both have empty medical facilities which will be used for the project, says Butcher.
Dowling was chosen as one of the satellite locations because the community recently lost its family doctor. Chapleau also lacks family doctors and its town council provided some funding for the project, she says.
Butcher says she doesn't know whether $1 million will be enough to fund the clinic.
“I'll let you know at the end of our budget development time. Certainly with the amount of people that we have in mind, that's a very good question,” she says.
“The $1 million number was in a press release, that not a budget. I don't know where the figure came from.”
Roberta Heale, who teaches in the nurse practitioner program at LU, worked closely with Butcher to get approval for the clinic. She hopes to help govern the clinic.
Most people won't have a problem with going to a nurse practitioner with their medical concerns, she says.
“I'm certainly not concerned in that respect, because every day I have patients ask us about our service. I had somebody stop their car and say, 'Go for it. Yay! When are you up and running?'”
Stephanie Van Gilst says she'll definitely apply to work at the clinic.
The woman graduated from Laurentian University's nurse practitioner program in 2005, and has been unable to find work in her field in the city.
Her husband, who is doing his family medicine residency in the city, will complete the training in July.
Although the couple would prefer to stay in Greater Sudbury, they were thinking about moving away to another city next year so they can both find jobs.
“It's very exciting not only for me, but for other nurse practitioners in the community who are looking for work, and the ones who will be graduating in the next little while.”
Van Gilst's former classmate, Nina Hoyt, has a job, but not as a nurse practitioner. She is the nurse case manager for the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB).
Hoyt also wants to work at the clinic. “I think the clinic is going to be very positive for the people of Greater Sudbury, and it will give us an opportunity to showcase what nurse practitioners do.”
Originally published in Northern Life