Dr. Sarah MacDonald: "I believe that, collaboratively, we’re moving in the right direction to improve access to health care for Nova Scotians, but we need positivity within the community to help with the recruitment and retention of family physicians."
Originally published on thechronicleherald.ca
A few short months from now, I will complete my residency as a family physician.
As a Nova Scotian, I look forward to giving back to the community that has fostered my education — from grade school to my undergrad to medical school and residency training. It’s important to me to stay in the province where I was raised.
Throughout my residency, I’ve had the opportunity to work across Canada and I’ve had very positive experiences in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotians remain the most wonderful people, and they are very thankful for the support that we, as family physicians, provide. I look forward to providing care and getting to know my patients, following them from birth through adulthood.
For me, family medicine is a rewarding experience — and feeling fulfilled at the end of the day continues to motivate me to help more people. While we do face challenges in health care in Nova Scotia, it’s important to understand the different roles that we, as family physicians, play in caring for you.
Many people see family physicians as the gateway to medical care in their community. We are that and so much more, providing support for patients in different environments.
In both city and rural hospitals, including the QEII Health Sciences Centre, teams of family physicians known as hospitalists provide daily, general medical care to hospitalized patients. Working within the hospital environment, they lead the medical team, co-ordinating care for inpatients.
In community and rural areas, family physicians may also staff emergency departments. Family physicians can also provide specialized care at both the beginning and end of life. Many of these physicians work in the hospital in these roles as well as in their community practice.
As a family physician, it’s necessary to manage any scenario that might be presented to you. It’s this breadth of knowledge and care that I find exciting and truly enjoy. I would recommend family medicine to anyone considering a career as a physician.
Completing an elective in family medicine during my second year of medical school made me realize this was the right path for me. I learned I could tailor my career to my interests and I’ve had wonderful, positive mentors to guide me along the way.
The power of this positivity goes a long way. Negativity exists in the media and among the public and this has an adverse effect on medical students considering following this path. We need the community to see family medicine in a positive light in order for students to explore it as a career choice, especially here in Nova Scotia.
While change takes time, in recent years I’ve seen advances in encouraging medical students to enter family medicine, including increasing exposure to family medicine experiences for first-year students.
The Dalhousie Family Medicine residency training program has added a training site in Truro, allowing for an additional six residents to train in the province. This is important as people quite often tend to stay where they were trained.
I believe that, collaboratively, we’re moving in the right direction to improve access to health care for Nova Scotians, but we need positivity within the community to help with the recruitment and retention of family physicians. The core of family medicine hasn’t changed — it’s still about supporting patients. We’re dedicated people, completing a minimum of 10 years of post-secondary school and, as family physicians, we are passionate about what we do.
Dr. Sarah MacDonald is a family medicine resident who lives in HRM