Alberta expanding primary care workforce

Government provides $3.1 million for Phase 2 of the Primary Care Network (PCN) NP Support Program

Alberta expanding primary care workforce
PCNs can apply for phase 2 of the support program from July 21 to Aug. 27.

Alberta is investing $3.1 million for phase 2 of the Primary Care Network (PCN) NP Support Program. The program is designed to increase the number of NPs in the health system and provide more access to timely care.

“Primary care is the foundation of a high-performing health system, and nurse practitioners are an under-used resource. Funding more NPs as part of the PCN team makes better use of the expertise of NPs to increase access, especially in rural and underserved locations where the need is greatest,” said Tyler Shandro, minister of health.

NPs are experienced registered nurses with advanced education who can diagnose and treat patients, providing services like ordering tests and prescribing medications. With the investment, the province is hiring up to 25 more nurse practitioners.

PCNs can apply for phase 2 of the support program from July 21 to Aug. 27. 

To apply, PCNs must outline how one or more of these priority areas will be addressed: increasing access to primary health-care services, such as after hours, on weekends and in rural/remote areas; meeting unmet demand for primary health-care services; providing care to underserved populations; and supporting chronic disease management.

To qualify for the funding, PCNs must also utilize NPs as autonomous providers in primary health care-based settings and have them work to the full extent of their education, skills and experience.

Recently, Alberta allowed EMS vehicles to transport those in need of help to alternative care locations, such as hospices, community health centres that assist with urgent but non-life-threatening situations.


The latest announcement of the program received a nod from the Nurse Practitioner Association of Alberta (NPAA).

“The NPAA is pleased to see the continued commitment by the government to provide ongoing funding for the PCN NP Support Program. We look forward to continuing our work with the government in utilizing NPs to their full scope to serve the health-care needs of Albertans by improving access to primary care providers,” said Mary-Elizabeth Cooper, president of NPAA. 

The NP support program began in 2019 to improve access to primary care, especially in high-demand areas. In phase 1 of the program, 24 new full-time NPs were hired. An additional 27 NPs were grandfathered from previous programs for a total of 51 NPs currently in the program.

There are about 730 NPs in Alberta who currently work in Alberta Health Services or PCNs. Among the 40 PCNs in the province, 29 are currently participating in the NP support program.

In March, Ontario colleges started accepting applications to the province's accelerated training program for personal support workers (PSWs).