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Leading Towards a National Stage

By Daniel Bushman

Reprinted with permission of The Watrous Manitou, Watrous, Saskatchewan

A woman with local roots and a desire to promote a national bond has been blazing a trail in her chosen field. Born and raised in Imperial, Maureen Klenk has experienced a few firsts when it comes to her profession and, in keeping with that trend, will soon find herself as president of a national association. 

Klenk became the first licenced nurse practitioner in the province in 2004, a number that has grown to 130 practicing in urban, remote and rural settings as well as in long-term care facilities and emergency rooms. 

In 2006, she took up a full-time faculty position in the primary care nurse practitioner program at SIAST in Regina. Now she is on her way to becoming the president of the Canadian Association of Advanced Practice Nurse (CAAPN) and is currently president elect. 

Once she assumes the position, it will be the first time a Saskatchewan native serves as the association’s president.

Before she gets the title, Klenk is spending a two-year term as president elect during which she will be working with the current president and other executive officers to learn about CAAPN and her future role. “If the president is absent, I will call, chair and set the agenda for executive meetings or the general meeting.”

Klenk said she also will liaise with the CAAPN communications director to make sure the newsletter is published on time.

The president elect officially takes over the top spot June 2013 for a two-year term. After that term ends, Klenk becomes past president for another two years.

“I have a strong passion for the advanced practice nursing roles and know how these roles can improve the health care of all Canadians,” said Klenk who added that she has a passion to press forward healthy public policy. “Evidence shows that advanced practice nursing roles improves the patient experience and promotes the health of the population. I believe that a publicly-funded health care system is sustainable and must be maintained.”

The now-Regina resident believes that advanced practice nurses must raise their voice collectively to help promote needed changes. “As president elect followed by president, I plan to bring together advanced practice nurses nationally and encourage the development of messages to take forward to decision makers in their regions.”

Klenk said her past leadership skills have helped her take on a national leadership role. “As former chairperson of the Nurse Practitioners of Saskatchewan and the founding president of the Saskatchewan Association of Nurse Practitioners, my connections both provincially and nationally will assist me to move the advanced practice nursing agenda forward.”

The daughter of Lawrence and Margaret who remain in Imperial, said it is important to educate people in the province about advanced practice roles in nursing, like the clinical nurse specialist and the nurse practitioner. 

“The clinical nurse specialist is an expert within the nursing role – often this clinician will focus on a specific disease state such as diabetes. Both patients and other providers would go to the clinical nurse specialist to seek advice on the best type of care that can be provided.” 

Klenk said the nurse practitioner role, on the other hand, is slightly different. “This role is not completely within the traditional role of the registered nurse so it needed to be given new legislation that would allow nurse practitioners to function fully.  

“In Saskatchewan, nurse practitioners can make a diagnosis, prescribe drugs, order and interpret diagnostic tests, perform minor surgical procedures and refer to specialists.  Both roles require extra education and clinical experience beyond a registered nurse, but the nurse practitioner role also requires the writing of a national exam and a separate licence.”

Klenk hopes that over time more and more people will become familiar with the roles that these types of health care workers can play in communities.