Allied primary health practitioners (NOC 3124)

High opportunity occupation

About this job

Allied primary health practitioners include nurse practitioners, physican assistants and midwives. People in this occupational group provide primary health care and treatment in conjunction with physicians and in collaboration with other health professionals.

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Nurse practitioners and physician assistants provide a range of health services to patients and they deliver preventive and continuous care toward managing patients' health. Nurse practitioners work for community health centres, hospitals, clinics and rehabilitation centres. Physician assistants usually work in private practice, including group or team practices, hospitals and clinics.

Midwives provide full-course care to women and their babies during the pre- and post-natal period. They work for hospitals, clinics, birthing centres or in private practices.

Common job titles
  • assistant, anesthesia
  • midwife - RM (registered midwife)
  • nurse practitioner
  • nurse, advanced practice
  • nurse-midwife
  • nurse-practitioner, acute care


Nurse practitioners perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Examine patients and take their medical histories and consult with physicians and other medical practitioners to evaluate patients' physical and mental health
  • Order laboratory tests, X-rays and other diagnostic procedures
  • Inoculate and vaccinate patients
  • Advise patients and their families on health care including health promotion, disease, illness and accident prevention
  • Collaborate with members of an interdisciplinary health team such as family physicians, therapists and nutritionists to plan, implement, co-ordinate and evaluate patient care in consultation with patients and their families.

Physician assistants perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Conduct patient interviews, physical assessments and take medical histories
  • Perform or order diagnostic tests and interpret results
  • Formulate and implement treatment plans and monitor patients' progress
  • Inoculate and vaccinate patients
  • Perform and assist in minor surgery
  • Provide health maintenance education
  • May participate in research activities.

Midwives perform some or all of the following duties:

  • Provide primary, full-course, care to women and their babies during pregnancy, labour, birth and the post-natal period including monitoring the health of mother and baby
  • Manage labour and spontaneous normal deliveries
  • Care for, assess and monitor the health of newborns and refer infants to appropriate medical services as required
  • Provide advice and guidance regarding care for newborns and young infants.

Work environment

Nurses mainly work in health-care facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, residential facilities, and doctor's offices as independent practitioners or team members. Community and public health nurses travel to patients' homes, schools, businesses, community centres or other sites.

Most nurses work 8 to 12 hour shifts, usually on rotation, including weekends, evenings, nights and holidays. On average, full-time nurses work 36 to 40 hours per week and part-time work is quite common.

Nurses use lifting devices and follow safety procedures to reduce the risk of workplace injuries and illness. New technologies and policies have resulted in a patient's reduced length of stay (i.e., more day surgeries are performed), which adds to the workload.

Nurses have to cope with the emotional aspects of working with the sick, injured and terminally ill, as well as patients' families.

Insights from industry

A growing and aging population will require more health services, which will result in an increased demand for registered nurses. Government has annually increased funding for health services and facilities, which will contribute to the increase in new job openings for nurses.

The current demand for nurses in all regions and settings in the province is strong. However, the current supply of nurses and new graduates is in short supply, particularly in northern and rural regions. To address this situation, the B.C. provincial government has created additional training spaces in public post-secondary institutions, and has offered loan forgiveness to nursing graduates who commit to work in under-served regions of the province.

The demand for nurses in specialty areas, such as operating rooms, emergency rooms and critical care is also strong, with many openings in the Mainland/Southwest region. In addition, experienced registered nurses and specialty nurses are also needed to teach students and train new graduates. The demand for nurse educators is increasing as many current nursing educators are nearing retirement. Other areas, such as medical-surgical units are also having a hard time recruiting and retaining registered nurses.

The role of nurses is expanding as governments consider ways to control increasing health-care costs. One approach is offering basic care through a mixed team that consists of doctors and other health professionals. Nurses would work alongside doctors and provide patient care in situations where a doctor's skills are not required. These workers are called nurse practitioners, which is a new, self-directed role for nurses.

The number of registered nurses working in residential/complex care is expected to decrease due to cost pressures and the current shortage of registered nurses. There is also a trend towards providing assisted living rather than intermediate care facilities. This will further reduce the employment opportunities for registered nurses in complex care. As a result, several health-care authorities are now introducing LPNs into home care nursing.

Career paths and resources

Career paths

Some individuals may work as health-care aides or practical nurses before beginning education for registered nursing.

Registered nurses typically start in an entry level position in a medical or surgical unit.

Increasingly, new graduates are finding employment in community health and specialty areas where new graduates were not previously hired until they gained experience.

With additional certification, registered nurses may specialize in areas such as emergency care, oncology, psychiatric care, critical care, pediatrics, geriatrics, palliative care, rehabilitation or occupational health.

With experience and additional education, nurses can become clinical nurses, nurse educators, nurse managers, care coordinators, clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners.

Registered nurses may progress to supervisory and managerial positions with experience and additional courses.

Additional resources