Students reaping rewards in rural medicine

·4 min read

Two new medical students at Queens General Hospital in Liverpool are getting first-hand experience in rural medicine.

Ben DuPlessis and Marrissa Ley are part of the 48-week South Shore Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship Dalhousie (LCID) program, which is designed to introduce students to practising medicine in a rural community.

The program was initiated at the Dalhousie’s New Brunswick campus. It was introduced to Nova Scotia last year when four students took part in hospitals in North Sydney and New Waterford.

DuPlessis and Ley are two of five students who are working on the South Shore this year as part of the program. Two other students in the program are working at the South Shore Regional Hospital in Bridgewater, while another student is at the Fishermen’s Memorial Hospital in Lunenburg.

The Doctor of Medicine or MD program at Dalhousie lasts four years, followed by two or more years of residency. The LCID program is an alternative to classic studies that see students rotate through various disciplines and in various blocks of times.

“I’m liking it. We had an option of doing this program or stay at a place for a few weeks, then move on to another place for a few weeks and probably not see the same people again. I thought it would be nice to settle in one place for a year and get to know some people,” said DuPlessis, who is from Dartmouth.

“There is a much higher chance, this way, that I will see some patients again and again over the year, and I’ll work with the same docs and really get to know them and their style and the different things they bring to medicine.”

Typically students don’t learn a lot about rural medicine in their first two years of schooling, while this program provides an opportunity to learn more, said DuPlessis.

He’s finding the experience inspiring.

“I can see myself settling down in a smaller place for sure. I definitely didn’t use to think like that, but I am more interested in it now, more than ever. I used to be more interested in procedures, the surgical side of things, but this is great,” he said. “I’ve gotten a sense that doctors really know their patients and I like that.”

The student also remarked on the camaraderie among staff.

“The doctors have all been fantastic. They all seem very close to each other, which is nice. Actually, all the staff are really close, cordial and friendly, and it’s been really easy to get to know people,” said DuPlessis, adding that the patients that he has talked to have also been very good to him.

When he gets some spare time, DuPlessis is looking forward to heading out on the trails with his partner and dogs, visiting the beaches, and doing a little surfing.

Hailing from Glace Bay, Ley also is enjoying the community and being closer to nature, as well as spending time with family doctors and physicians and experiencing their day-to-day routines.

She’s spoken with patients, given flu shots, done some minor procedures and conducted physical exams.

“Overall, I think it is a better learning opportunity than the traditional rotations because it kind of gives you more of a sense of … what practices are like on a day-to-day basis and how that changes over the course of a year.”

The program allows the student to follow a patient through their health care plan, whether they have to go to another hospital or not.

“Having the patient-centered focus is kind of what drew me in,” said Ley.

Ley and her husband moved to Liverpool in June and have spent time exploring the area. “It feels like a nice community that you can live and grow in. It’s going to be tough to go back to the city and do rotations there next year. I’m going to want to stay,” said Ley.

Dr. Andrew Blackadar, who has been practising in Liverpool for the past 17 years, is one of a group of preceptors or instructors for the students at Queens General Hospital.

“The program is a good one. It exposes learners to working in a non-tertiary care environment ,which is great. I’m pretty excited to watch [the students] grow as clinicians this year. In the end, they will have a real rounded approach,” he said.

And according to Blackadar, the program is not only good for the students.

“The joy of teaching is what really keeps me energized in my day-to-day practice. They are always asking questions that push me to stay on top of things,” he said. “You continually learn new things while teaching, and it helps provide the best standard of care you can have. It’s a win for both the learners and preceptors,” said Blackadar.

Kevin McBain, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, LighthouseNOW Progress Bulletin