May 30 to June 5 is Rural Health Week

·2 min read

Rural health care has always been an important part of life in Alberta. The last two years of navigating a global pandemic has only reinforced that fact.

As a way of showing their thanks, rural Albertans are encouraged to reach out to their local physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, physiotherapists, mental health workers, midwives and the many other health professionals who help maintain healthy communities.

Taking the time to thank everyone involved is an important way for communities to realize just how many people it takes to make health care happen in a rural setting, says Jeff Brockman, executive director of the Associate Clinic in Pincher Creek.

“There’s the obvious front-line workers — triage nurses, physicians providing direct care, EMS drivers transporting patients — but it’s a massive team of kitchen staff, maintenance, and environmental services behind the scenes that make sure health care can be delivered in a rural setting,” he says.

“When you start adding this up, it’s a huge portion of people that live in our community.”

“We have a whole team of people here that are really committed to people’s health,” adds Beth Pounder, care co-ordinator at Crowsnest Medical Clinic. “Despite all the scariness with Covid, they never lost that. It's a beautiful team, and I’m honoured to be part of it.”

Sheila Pratchler has been working as an LPN in the area since 1990 and has specialized in dialysis treatment since 2002. Although they may seem small, she says gestures of gratitude go a long way.

“In dialysis we see the same folks three days a week for four hours a time. We basically see them more than our own families,” Sheila says.

“Even just to have someone send a card — you get those long-term relationships, and when the family recognizes you’re basically a part of the family it means a lot.”

Although encouraging health professionals to set up shop in smaller communities is a challenge, one significant part of the solution is fairly simple: be open with why you live where you do!

“If you yourself are an import to this community, let people know why,” says Pincher Creek physician Dr. Gavin Parker, chairman of the rural Health Professions Action Plan board.

“They need to hear that. From the doctors it sounds like a sales pitch — if it comes from the community members it’s a little bit more genuine.”

From all of us at the Breeze to each person who helps make health care in our local community a reality: thank you!

Ideas on how to make the most of Rural Health Week are available online at rhpap.ca/arhw.

Sean Oliver, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Shootin' the Breeze

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