Nova Scotia families can now make arrangements more quickly after the death of a loved one, in certain circumstances. Changes to the Vital Statistics Act, passed in December 2011, allow nurse practitioners and other authorized professionals to sign medical certificates of death, when required. The Medical Certificate Regulations took effect Jan. 15. “It is never easy dealing with the death of a loved one and the days following are especially difficult,” said Pam Birdsall, MLA for Lunenburg, on behalf of John MacDonell, Minister of Service Nova Scotia and Municipal Relations. “This change will help families make the necessary arrangements more quickly.” Only doctors and medical examiners could sign medical certificates of death, which allows funeral directors to remove a body. This can cause hardship for families in remote and rural areas, in some long-term residential facilities and with deaths at home. “The nursing profession is always evolving, based on the changing needs of patients, families and the health care system,” said Donna Denney, executive director of the College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia. “This new authority will enable nurse practitioners, who have met the educational requirements, to work to their optimal scope of practice in a way that better supports grieving families in Nova Scotia at a very difficult time in their lives.” Nurse practitioners are expected to start signing the certificates in March, after finishing training. “It allows for more expedient removal of a body by the funeral director and prevent undue hardship to grieving families caused by a delay where a physician or medical examiner is not readily available,” said Adam Tipert, president of the Funeral Service Association of Nova Scotia. There are more than 100 licensed nurse practitioners in Nova Scotia.