More than 20 medical students and family medicine residents will travel to La Ronge on Saturday, April 1 as part of a program designed to improve recruitment in rural and regional centres.
The Roadmap Program was started by the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) as a way to showcase rural areas and increase the number of Saskatchewan-trained physicians working in smaller communities.
SMA president Dr. John Gjevre said the program will help sustain healthcare in rural areas, and support the physicians who already work there by recruiting more healthcare workers.
“Rural family medicine is foundational for healthcare in the province,” Gjevre said in a media release. “The Roadmap Program enables medical students to see that first-hand as they visit facilities and learn about rural and regional healthcare from local physicians.”
Roughly 22 students and residents are expected to take part in Saturday’s visit to La Ronge. The trip will include a tour of the host community, allowing students to take in the attractions, and spend time with physicians who already work in the area.
The will also spend time with local residents who aren’t healthcare workers so they can learn about life in the area.
Dr. Sean Groves chairs the SMA’s Committee on Rural and Regional Practice (CORRP). He supports the Roadmap Program, and said it’s needed now more than ever.
“There is a crisis in family medicine,” Groves said in a media release. “The solutions are multi-faceted and complex, but the Roadmap Program is one tool CORRP can support that aims to make a difference in rural healthcare.”
Groves currently practices as a family physician in La Ronge. He said Saskatchewan already faces a shortage of family doctors, and filling those roles is going to be even more difficult as fewer medical students choose to work in family medicine.
He’s hopeful the Roadmap Program will show new doctors the diversity of care that rural physicians provide their patients.
“I know from experience the challenges are many, but so too are the rewards,” Groves said. “Hopefully medical students come away from the experience contemplating a career in rural family medicine.”
Data from the Saskatchewan Medical Services Branch shows there were 689 family doctors practicing in Saskatchewan in March 2021, 235 of which were in rural areas. That’s down from the 982 family doctors who were active in Saskatchewan in 2018-19.