Despite the many challenges COVID-19 has presented this year, Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) was able to host a scaled down version of ‘Rural Week’ in late summer. Normally, Rural Week — held in partnership with the Manitoba Health Care Providers Network— occurs in late May. However, with provincial public health orders in place, as well as challenges from a logistical and organizational perspective, the educational initiative for first-year medical students from the University of Manitoba’s Max Rady College of Medicine was pushed back.
Gradually, as health orders changed, sufficient coordination allowed for an abbreviated version to take place within PMH region from August 18-20. There were two first-year medical students in each of the communities of Dauphin, Hamiota, Neepawa, Ste. Rose and Russell.
Rural Week provides an opportunity for students to get first-hand experience and exposure to not just rural and northern medicine, but rural and northern life. It is an opportunity for participating communities to showcase themselves and promote the opportunities and benefits of rural and northern medicine.
In Neepawa, the recruitment committee met with students when they arrived, showed them an available apartment (located at Neepawa Medical Clinic) and toured them around the community. The students also got a chance to go on a hike at one of the area’s hiking trails followed by a barbeque generously hosted by Dr. Poettcker and attended by most of Neepawa’s physicians.
Besides the community tours, students had a chance to participate in clinical education stations, spend some time within hospitals and shadow physicians at medical clinics.
Participating in Russell, Alyssa Kidd who hails from Winnipeg, indicated Rural Week was the highlight of her first-year of medical school.
“We had the pleasure of shadowing some fantastic clinical teachers, Dr. Rola and Dr. Honiball. They were incredibly engaging in all the clinical cases in which we were involved. They answered all questions and gave us the opportunity to speak to — and examine— patients, which allowed my confidence to grow. I even got to trim my first suture tails; my hands were shaking so bad I thought I would end up nicking the patient!”
In Dauphin, Jake Yuriy relished the opportunity to take part in many domains of rural practice within his hometown.
“I was able to work in Dauphin’s beautiful new Emergency Room, attend clinic, rounds at the local care homes, covered obstetrical call, and spent some time in the Operating Room (O.R.). I think the absolute highlight of rural week was assisting during a surgical procedure. Scrubbing in and ‘participating’ in my first procedure as a member of an O.R. team was an incredible experience that I won’t forget!
Prairie Mountain Health sincerely thanks all of the preceptors in participating sites for sharing their time, knowledge and expertise. PMH also thanks community members and leaders for assisting with tours and special interest events which took part in various communities.
Both Alyssa and Jake say they were grateful to participate in the initiative and plan to continue considering the many possibilities associated with rural medicine.
See below for a more detailed list of questions and answers provided by the two medical students.
Question and answer session with Alyssa Kidd and Jake Yuriy
1) How did you find the experience/initiative in general?
Alyssa Kidd: Rural Week was the highlight of my first year of medical school!
Jake Yuriy: I was grateful to even have a Rural Week in light of COVID. I appreciate that Prairie Mountain Health (PMH) both had limited time to accommodate a new Rural Week while also respecting public health directives. Despite that, I had a whirlwind of valuable experiences across many domains of rural practice. Rural Week 2020 helped solidify the possibilities of rural medicine.
2) What are some of the things you ended up doing during your time in the community and within clinical settings?
AK: During our time in Russell, we were treated to an endearing tour of the town (from Brent the local pharmacist), a beautiful boat ride on Lake of the Prairies (by David, the funeral home director and Bonnie a retired nurse). We had an exciting night around the back areas with Terry Jackson and her daughter Shannon, which included learning about the agricultural industry, a cone from Connie's and seeking shelter in some very kind locals' house during a tornado warning. We had the privilege of being involved in the care of patients ranging from those having their first well-child check-up to those receiving compassionate palliative care, those receiving their weekly outpatient dialysis to those having their first chemo treatments, motor vehicle accidents to combine lacerations, and everything in between.
JY: I was able to work in Dauphin’s beautiful new ER, attend clinic, round at the local care homes, covered obstetrical call, and spent some time in the OR.
3) Were there some things you ended up doing as part of Rural Week that you didn’t expect or anticipate?
AK: We had the pleasure of shadowing some fantastic clinical teachers, Dr. Rola and Dr. Honiball. They were incredibly engaging in all the clinical cases we got to be involved with. They were so willing to answer all the questions we had and had a lot of trust in us allowing us the opportunity to speak to and examine patients, which allowed my confidence with my skills to grow. I even got to trim my first suture tails; my hands were shaking so bad I thought I would end up nicking the patient!
JY: I think the absolute highlight of rural week was assisting during a surgical procedure. Scrubbing in and ‘participating’ in my first procedure as a member of an OR team was an incredible experience that I won’t forget!
4) Did your experiences coincide with what you thought working in rural medicine/rural settings might look like?
AK: Having grown up in the city, I'd always idealized small towns for the close-knit communities they harbour; Russell was affirmative to this thinking. Everyone, from the nurses, physicians, aids, admin, and all other clinical staff were so accommodating and dedicated to their work, it was apparent they truly cared about the wellbeing of their community.
JY: I went in expecting to see a lot of variety in patients, cases, and acuity. I was not disappointed!
5) What might be some of the key takeaways from the experience?
AK: I had always thought rural practice was something I was interested in. With this experience, seeing the diversity of practice, and the kindness of those in the community, it moved to the top of my list by a long shot!
JY: Practicing rural medicine as a family physician can be almost anything you want to make it. I got to see family physicians practicing long-term care, acute care, family clinic, obstetrics, and assisting in surgeries.
Practicing rurally does not mean practicing alone, either. My preceptors were always with residents or other colleagues, and knew how to find help if they needed it.
6) I take it you had great preceptors and community hosts….anything to pass along in that regard?
AK: Thank you so much to everyone mentioned above for being so welcoming; to Marg Fraser, Abbey Vorlicek, and Leanne Cheyne for planning these incredible few days for us; and to those who put the effort in to making rural week happen this year in such uncertain times. This was an experience I'll always remember and I'm just so grateful!
JY: I’m actually from Dauphin, so I got to be my own community host and show my classmate around my hometown!
7) Anything else you might want to add about your future goals, education, aspirations… ?
JY: Sure, I guess I will share a little bit of history on myself: Although I was born and raised in Dauphin, I actually went to University of Saskatchewan for my first degree. While living and studying in Saskatoon, I learned how important my rural roots were to me and decided early on that I wanted to return to a rural area to practice medicine. At University of Saskatchewan I researched the effects of hospital closures on rural communities, and this shaped my desire to be an advocate for rural residents’ health needs.
Obviously, I’m back in Manitoba now for medical school and am currently one of the co-presidents of the Rural Interest Group. I hope to someday return to Dauphin and establish a family practice.