Healthcare Travelling Roadshow
In rural and remote regions of B.C. where limited resources and vast distances magnify the complexities of healthcare delivery, the need for doctors is great.
In an effort to provide a sustainable, long-term solution to medical-professional shortages in these communities, faculty began to look at how to attract students from rural backgrounds–individuals who are not only familiar with and often better equipped to face the unique healthcare challenges of remote care, but who are also more likely to return to their hometowns to train and practise after graduation.
Similar to Aboriginal students, students from rural and remote regions of B.C. have traditionally been underrepresented in medicine.
Dr. Sean Maurice, a senior lab instructor with the Northern Medical Program, has been at the forefront of turning this around. In 2009, he pioneered a grassroots initiative: the Healthcare Travelling Roadshow, which was established by the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) to address rural healthcare-workforce shortages in B.C.’s northern communities.
Over the past several years, Maurice and a multidisciplinary group of healthcare students from UNBC, UBC, and the College of New Caledonia (CNC), have travelled to rural communities across the province. Together, they showcase a wide range of medical and healthcare career options to elementary and high-school students.
The Healthcare Travelling Roadshow has become an important opportunity for children and youth in rural communities to have some fun, such as learning how to read an X-ray or intubate a dummy. It’s also an opportunity for these students to speak directly with university role models and learn more about medical and health professional programs open to them in the years ahead.
Gerry Thiessen is the mayor of the District of Vanderhoof, one of the communities visited by the Roadshow in 2013. He is excited to see students learning about the incredible range of career options open to them in the healthcare sector.
What’s neat is when other students come in and say ‘Hey, there’s a world of opportunity out there.’ The students here are learning that there’s much more to the medical profession, much more to health care than a doctor or nurse. So when you see people who are occupational therapists, when you see lab technicians–those kinds of professionals come in and talking to them, students are saying ‘Hey, I’m interested in that.’ My hope is that maybe two, maybe three percent of those students will say ‘Hey, that’s something that I’d like to do’, and we see them at the university, be part of the north, and stay in our community and that’s really exciting for us.”
— Mayor Gerry Thiessen, District of Vanderhoof
The Roadshow has also become much more than an opportunity to expose rural youth to education and career opportunities in the healthcare sector. It also offers university students—whether he or she is a nursing student from UNBC, a radiology student at CNC, or a physical therapy student with UBC–the opportunity to work as part of an interdisciplinary team of medical and health professionals and get a glimpse into what life, and establishing a practice, would be like in rural areas of B.C.
Kaley Strachan, a UBC Master of Physical Therapy student, says that participating in the 2013 Roadshow was a major turning point. Inspired by one of the communities she visited as part of the Roadshow, Strachan will be returning to the community of Vanderhoof to set up permanent shop as a physical therapist.
Participating as a member of the 2013 Healthcare Travelling Roadshow offered greater experiences and opportunities than I could have imagined. While my plan was to find employment as a physiotherapist in a northern or rural setting after graduation, my involvement in this event solidified this, and even planted the seed that grew into an accepted job offer in Vanderhoof!
I enjoyed meeting and working with fellow students from the varied healthcare disciplines as we shared our similarities, differences and goals with each other, and to the students in the communities. It was a thrill to engage the children in our presentations while offering information that they could use to direct their career and personal choices.
The volunteers and community leaders offered such a warm welcoming as they shared their knowledge, passion and plans for healthcare, recreation, and other community developments. Spending time exploring what the different areas had to offer while networking with community leaders who clearly love where they live was one of the major factors that drew me back to this region. I look forward to beginning my professional life in Vanderhoof, while continuing to share my passion and skills to other students, colleagues and community members.”
— Kaley Strachan, Student, UBC Master of Physical Therapy