Future healthcare professionals converged on Oyen in September to discover the advantages of living and working in a rural Alberta community.
Over 50 medical, nursing, and EMS students from the University of Calgary and Medicine Hat College participated in an RPAP Medical Skills event, sponsored by the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP), Oyen Big Country Hospital, Big Country Medical Dental Board, and the SAMDA Economic Partnership.
Local healthcare professionals instructed students to perform a variety of medical skills, including suturing, spinal immobilization, and airway management. The STARS Air Ambulance Mobile Simulation Unit was also present to run participants through several simulated healthcare scenarios.
In addition to teaching vital medical skills, RPAP Medical Skills events also provided the community with a valuable opportunity to showcase local amenities and attractions to students in healthcare disciplines. Students toured medical facilities in Oyen and the Acadia Valley Hutterite Colony, and were treated to a community dinner at the Barn Pub and Grill in Oyen on Saturday evening.
Special Areas Board Chair, Jordon Christianson, says the point of hosting a Skills Weekend in Oyen is to provide students with a better understanding and open mind about working in a rural community.
“One of the challenges we’ve had for many years is attracting rural physicians out to these more remote areas of the province, so it’s a great opportunity to get students who are entering the field to experience what rural medicine is all about, and to help them gauge if they want to be involved in a rural practice when they’re done school.”
Spencer was one of several nursing students attending a Skills Weekend for the first time from the Medicine Hat College Bachelor of Nursing program. Having worked previously in a rural environment, he believes the Skills Weekend helped solidify his decision to return to rural following graduation.
“It is a little bit more scary being a rural nurse, because you need to have a wide range of skills, but it’s exciting to learn those skills and to work with a team, because you are more independent, and you need to have more responsibility. I just love the feel of a rural community because you know everybody, and you are more tight knit.”
According to Sina, a first year medical student from Calgary, rural exposure has an impact on a student's decision to go rural.
"I can say for me personally it is something that I am seriously considering, and I wouldn't have considered it otherwise if I didn't have the chance to get exposed and see what it is like."
Oyen physician, Dr. Akinseinde Osakuade, instructed suturing techniques on Day One, and says feedback from the participants was very good.
“We always welcome students to come and have a feel of both life in the rural community and what is available with the health service here. The local hospital is very motivated to provide excellent care, and any way to be able to pass that learning to people who want to provide good care, and who might be interested in coming back to rural facilities, we are definitely interested in doing.”
RPAP Medical Skills Weekend events are arranged by the RPAP Medical Students' Initiative Coordinator, and are scheduled throughout the year in rural Alberta communities. To learn more about Medical Skills Weekends, visit www.rpap.ab.ca/skillsweekends.
RPAP | Health Workforce for Alberta is an independent, not-for-profit company funded by the Alberta Ministry of Health. Established in 1991 by the Government of Alberta, RPAP supports the ongoing efforts of Alberta’s rural physicians, their families and communities to improve the quality of rural health care.