Rural training program to strengthen ties between different health professionals and train future health care providers

Health professional students are gaining first-hand experience in rural healthcare and teamwork between multiple health disciplines, thanks to a $700,000 academic partnership between the Government of British Columbia, the province’s post-secondary institutions, the BC Academic Council, and regional health authorities such as Northern Health.

The Interprofessional Rural Program of BC (IRPbc) has placed students in health facilities in Hazelton and Fort St John. These students are receiving front-line training in the operations of health facilities found in rural communities. They are also conducting group activities that help them better understand the skills and talents of colleagues from different health professions.

“Our government has made a commitment to increase the supply of health-care providers across this province to help renew health care for patients in rural areas,” said Sindi Hawkins, Minister of Health Planning. “IRPbc is attracting a much broader range of health professionals to rural communities which will benefit local patients. By being welcomed into smaller communities, and experiencing the natural beauty and challenging work environment, we hope many of these students will choose to begin their careers in rural B.C.”

“IRPbc has demonstrated great success in providing a valuable learning experience for health professional students, as well as demonstrating the benefits of inter-professional learning,” said Dr. John Gilbert, principal of UBC’s College of Health Disciplines. “We know these placements will continue to be a win-win situation for all involved.”

IRPbc brings together students from varied disciplines for a four to 12 week period. These include those studying medicine, nursing, occupational therapy, medical laboratory technology, physical therapy, social work, and speech language pathology.

Together, they conduct a group project targeted to the specific needs of the community in which they are located. These projects include the following:

?Fort St. John: students in nursing, radiology technology, and

physiotherapy are developing educational materials to help health staff prevent back injuries and musculo-skeletal injuries.

?Hazelton: students from nursing, physiotherapy, family practice, and

counseling psychology are developing an information package on a hereditary heart disease (Long QT Syndrome) for the Gitxsan community

IRPbc is also placing students in Trail, Bella Coola, and Port McNeill.

“Health centres in the north typically have staff from different health disciplines working closely together to meet the needs of their patients,”

said Malcolm Maxwell, Northern Health CEO. “IRPbc assists students in developing the team-work skills that will help them become strong additions to health facilities in rural communities, such as the ones we serve.

“Academic partnerships like these are very important in providing long-term solutions to medical person-power issues. We believe the development of further educational opportunities such as the Northern Medical program will offer even more avenues for hands-on instruction in rural health care.”

“We are pleased to host these students along with many others, who are gaining first-hand experience in the rewards and challenges of health care in rural settings,” said Dr. Philip Muir, CEO of Wrinch Memorial Hospital in Hazelton affiliated with Northern Health. “Our staff members greatly enjoy working with promising health professional students.”

IRPbc is funded by the Ministry of Health Planning, coordinated by the BC Academic Health Council, and operated in facilities run by regional health authorities. IRPbc implementation team members represent communities, post-secondary institutions and the Ministries of Health Planning and Advanced Education.