For physicians in rural Alberta, access to Continuing Medical Education (CME) is vital.
In addition to strengthening existing health care services in rural communities, the availability of continuous professional learning and assessment opportunities encourages the maintenance of medical services to rural communities. Through reducing professional isolation, CME can also help facilitate the retention of healthcare practitioners to rural Alberta communities.
However, providing Alberta’s rural physicians with access to CME can be a challenge. The decision to attend a CME activity can have an impact on a smaller rural practice, placing strain on the physician’s remaining colleagues, and imposing significant financial costs on the physician attending.
To help offset or negate these burdens, RPAP | Health Workforce for Alberta enables the province’s rural physicians to access Continuing Medical Education initiatives. RPAP provides financial support for more “traditional” means of acquiring CME training—such as the annual Banff Emergency Medicine for Rural Hospitals conference and the provincial videoconference program through the University of Calgary CME and Professional Development office —and supplements these options with access to its own online programming such as the General Emergency Medical Skills (GEMS) program; and PracticalDoc.ca, an online resource providing teaching and learning resources to rural doctors across Canada. Alberta rural physicians can also access clinical traineeships lasting from 2 to 52 weeks funded through RPAP’s Peter K Lindsay Enrichment training program.
Central to facilitating traineeship requests from rural Alberta physicians are RPAP Skills Brokers, Dr. Ron Gorsche, and Dr. Hugh Hindle. Recently, Dr. Hindle, a practising rural physician from Sylvan Lake, surveyed other rural Alberta physicians to determine what CME for rural docs will look like in the future.
Dr. Hindle questioned physicians online and at the January 2014 Emergency Medicine for Rural Hospitals conference about how they prefer to access CME. According to Hindle, the results appear to indicate a continued high level of interest in Emergency Medicine topics amongst rural physicians.
“We are seeing high demand for emergency medicine and related skills such as airway management, other procedural skills and orthopedic techniques,” explains Hindle.
On the other hand, interest in non-clinical topics such as practice management, physician leadership and stress management remains relatively low. Only 25 per cent of respondents rated any of the non-clinical topics as very important for their continuing education.
The survey also reflects growing comfort and familiarity with technology amongst rural physicians, with the need for IT appearing lower than a previous survey in 2011.
“This might reflect the increased use of information technology, such as electronic medical records in rural practice,” Dr. Hindle added.
While videoconferences are popular, and there is growing familiarity with new technologies such as Podcasts, there is still a preference for small groups and large lectures remain popular with a preference for resort locations for conferences.
The survey also found that:
- Responses about planned professional development activities suggest that internal medicine and emergency medicine focused CME are favoured options.
- A quarter of respondents indicated that they were very likely to pursue a clinical traineeship in the next five years.
- There was strong support for new topics in the GEMS program, particularly for one on Airway Emergencies.
To view the full results of the survey, click here.