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LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Doctor recruitment and the messages people hear

Letter to the editor
Letter to the editor - Google Images

DIGBY, N.S. – Digby recently hosted more than 100 family medicine residents in town for a retreat and recruitment event. These are new family doctors getting ready to begin their careers, and who are now deciding where to live and work in Canada.

Physician leaders and NSHA recruitment staff and representatives from several Nova Scotia communities were there to meet and build relationships with residents and tell them about the opportunities to practice medicine and enjoy everything our province has to offer. There was excitement in the room as a group of doctors, soon to begin practice, spent time in a part of the province where we’re working hard to attract more practitioners.

As these family medicine residents enjoyed breakfast at the Digby Pines Resort some listened to CBC radio coverage from Sandy Cove and Digby Neck – stories of people who created new businesses and sustained long-standing ones, who breathed new life into old schools, people who reimagined what the community can become while still respecting its storied past.

The family medicine residents also listened to an interview about the concerns people have about health care in their community. There are very real challenges. Too many people don’t have a doctor or nurse practitioner, people are waiting too long, or have to travel too far for some health services. They also heard a person representing the community voice a perception that doctors who arrive are bound to depart, and that by accommodating doctors’ desires to relocate within Nova Scotia in recent instances, NSHA is in fact telling them to go.

During the interview, community members listening probably heard some of their own concerns being aired. NSHA leaders heard feedback that’s been shared directly in meetings with the speaker and others in the area. But what did those medical residents gathered in Digby hear?

Soon after the CBC interview, some of the family medicine resident doctors who had been interested in working in Nova Scotia contacted NSHA’s local head of Family Medicine who was in Digby with them, with questions about how receptive Nova Scotia really is toward new doctors. That previous sense of excitement was tinged with doubt.


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Choosing your career path and where you work and raise your family is a personal decision for all professions. We know that community leaders, government and the health authority influence only a part of the decision on where doctors and other providers choose to work. When a new health-care provider does an online search for your community, what pops up? When they scan the local newspapers or radio, what do they see and hear? What stories do our communities tell? Are they stories to compel a new doctor or health-care provider to come visit? Are they stories to encourage a family to leave their home in another part of Canada to create a new life for themselves in Nova Scotia?

We can start telling new stories about Nova Scotia. This doesn’t mean we ignore the challenges and concerns. But we can start to change the conversation in order to tell the full story and give a more complete picture of our communities. Media, both traditional and social, as well as online communities, all play a valuable role here.

Across Nova Scotia, there are groups of very well-meaning people organizing themselves, who are understandably worried about access to health-care services in a time when doctors, nurse practitioners and others are in limited supply in Canada. The message they send is being heard.

We see some communities producing videos, aimed at doctors, highlighting the benefits of living and working in their area. Others are preparing attractive recruitment packages and materials to share with potential new neighbours. These messages are being heard as well.

For the new family medicine residents meeting in Digby, we need to work together to tell the stories they need to hear in order to make the decision to practice in Nova Scotia.

Lynn Edwards and Rick Gibson,

On behalf of the NSHA (Nova Scotia Health Authority Primary Health Care and Department of Family Practice leaders

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