Primary care the top priority for new nurse practitioner

Adrienne Lagura

When Adrienne Lagura was a child in the Philippines, she’d spend time every summer with her aunt, a nurse at a local hospital.

Lagura would pretend to be a patient as her aunt, Regina assessed her. She became her aunt’s study companion. Even then, Lagura felt a strong pull toward health care.

“I told myself, I want to be like her,” Lagura says. “She was really caring and thoughtful and kind. She cared for everyone.”

But it wasn’t until Lagura moved to Canada and volunteered at hospitals and long-term care facilities as a young adult that she committed to following in her aunt’s footsteps. Lagura became a registered nurse in 2016, working in high acuity lung transplant and thoracic surgery at Vancouver General Hospital. After completing a critical care program at BCIT in 2019, Lagura worked at VGH’s cardiac ICU for two more years before returning to graduate studies at the University of Victoria.

Now, Lagura is moving into another area of nursing, a high-demand specialty that is helping bring primary health care to nearly 1 million people in BC without a family doctor.

This month, Lagura will be among 25 students convocating from UVic’s Master of Nursing, Nurse Practitioner (NP) program. The competitive and demanding two-year program qualifies Lagura to work as a family nurse practitioner in BC. Lagura is already employed as a NP at a primary care clinic in Coquitlam where she finished her last clinical placement.

There, Lagura works with other doctors and NPs to give patients quality primary health care. Her work includes health promotion and prevention, examining and assessing patients, writing prescriptions, ordering lab tests, x-rays or diagnostic tests, and making referrals to other specialists. As an experienced critical care nurse, Lagura knows first-hand the importance of early detection.

“[In Vancouver], we’d get a lot of patients from up north who were super sick, who had heart attacks and other complex cardiovascular problems. They had no primary provider,” she says. “If we actually had more practitioners, especially in primary care, the cycle of chronic disease could have been prevented.”

Lagura’s journey at UVic has an added twist: She is close to completing two graduate degrees, having almost finished an Advanced Practice Leadership (APL) master’s in nursing before changing to the NP program. For the APL degree, which is more focused on leadership, management and research, Lagura worked with School of Nursing Acting Director Dzifa Dordunoo on metal hypersensitivity.

Lagura continued her research into metal hypersensitivity as part of her NP degree—in addition to maintaining a certain grade in her courses, passing exams and completing clinical placements.

Dordunoo says Lagura finished an incredible amount of work in a short time, recently publishing her first article on metal hypersensitivity and co-authoring another article a month later. Lagura also presented at a nurse practitioner conference this summer about the under-studied immune disorder.

“I couldn’t be prouder of her,” Dordunoo says. “I know she will be an amazing provider because of her overall education as a nurse practitioner and hands on experience with leading her own research into a patient safety issue such as metal hypersensitivity reactions.”

Lagura says although the journey was not easy, she feels lucky to have had the support of Dordunoo and other faculty members.

“Dr. Dordunoo inspired me to reach my potentials and not to give up on my dream to be a family nurse practitioner,” she says.

Ultimately, Lagura hopes to also work with immigrants in a clinic setting or at a specialized outpatient cardiac clinic.

“Coming from the Philippines to Canada, it was initially challenging to navigate health care. I think it would be nice to connect with immigrants and help them in the future,” she says.

As for her aunt, Lagura says she’s proud. Regina also has a master’s degree and is a head nurse at a hospital in the Philippines.

“She’s so glad she made an impact on me,” Lagura says.