Merging health-care disciplines and lifestyle choices in rural communities

Students get a chance to explore rural medical facilities in Pincher Creek as part of the RPAP weekend May 25 and 26., 2013  -   Photo: Will Conner

Students get a chance to explore rural medical facilities in Pincher Creek as part of the RPAP weekend May 25 and 26., 2013  -   Photo: Will Conner

Medical, nursing and physiotherapy students descended on Pincher Creek May 25 and 26 as part of an initiative that marries physician recruitment, community support and spousal influence in the physician’s decision-making process.

For the last 11 years the RPAP has invited students out to rural Alberta municipalities to showcase the advantages and lifestyles of practising rural medicine.

“Rural medicine interests me because rural nurses have to be more innovative and get to be more in charge [of the process],” said Mount Royal University nursing student Sandra Burk.

The RPAP weekend treated first- and second-year medical and third-year nursing and physiotherapy students to a weekend where they have opportunity to meet the local medical community, partake in skills training and witness a mock collision and extraction scene. The students, who travelled to Pincher Creek from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary, the Faculty of Nursing at Mount Royal College, and the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Rehabilitation Medicine’s Augustana campus in Camrose, also trained in STARS’ Emergency Mobile Education Units, and ended the evening being wined and dined by members of the Pincher Creek community.

The skills weekends have been a great success for both the students and the communities that host them according to Rosemary Burness, medical students’ initiatives coordinator with the RPAP.

Burness said many students say the idea of rural practice never really occurred to them prior to the event, but “the key is to get them interested in rural medicine before they get hooked on urban medicine.”

It’s not just the students who have to become interested, however. This year the RPAP also invited the spouses of students along, acknowledging that in many cases the spouse also has to be sold on the idea of rural life, including their own job opportunities.

Some students say they consider rural medicine because of the relaxed lifestyle, financial incentives, short commutes and intimate connections to patients.

The key to RPAP’s success, says Burness, lies in building awareness about rural opportunities, and that many students aren’t aware that rural medicine can be as modern, exciting and fulfilling as it is in the cities.

“I got into nursing because I like people, I like taking care of people,” said Burk, one of the nursing students from MRU. “If you work in a rural community you’ll see the same people and be able to effect change more, because it is smaller.”

By Will Conner, Intern with RPAP www.rpap.ab.ca