Family medical residents prescribed to Moose Jaw

Nathan Liewicki
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Amanda Waldner uses her stethoscope to listen to the breathing of a patient in the emergency ward at the Moose Jaw Union Hospital on July 25. Waldner is one of four family medicine residents that recently started two-year residencies in the Friendly City under the province's Distributed Medical Education initiative. 

New provincial initiative has young doctors learning in smaller centres

One day Rob Haver was a medical student. The next day he was a doctor.

“Everything is new. You have a new level of responsibility,” Haver told the Times-Herald on Friday. “Even though we get a good deal of independence in what we are able to do and the privileges we're granted, there's another physician there to help us.”

Haver is one of four young doctors completing a Family Medicine Residency in the Friendly City. In addition to Haver, Amanda Waldner, Brenton Janzen and Heather Konkin – the only one not from Saskatchewan – will call Moose Jaw home for the next two years.

As part of Saskatchewan’s Distributed Medical Education initiative, the quartet of young physicians, which started their residency in early July, will spend much of their time at a clinic, but also rotate through a variety of specialties, such as obstetrics, general surgery and geriatrics.

The primary focus of the program is to train physicians outside of Regina and Saskatoon in hopes that they will remain in the communities they complete their residency in.

According to Dr. Volker Rininsland, who is in charge of the Moose Jaw Rural Family Medicine Residency program, this first-year provincial initiative has allowed residents to work in other small centres, such as Swift Current, Prince Albert and La Ronge.

“The big thing is that we form roots and social networks,” said Dr. Rininsland. “It's been shown that about 80 per cent of people who train in these programs – out of the big city – tend to stay at least in the province.”

For Haver, Moose Jaw was his first choice to complete his residency. He couldn’t be happier with the placement he received from the Canadian Residency Matching Service.

“For all the residents, we were attracted to Moose Jaw just because we felt like we would get a lot more direct and hands-on experiences with the procedures and things that are available here that you wouldn't necessarily have the opportunity to do elsewhere.

“We are the first residents, so we would be the only ones who would be called if something was happening in emergency, or on the wards,” said Haver. “It's nice being the only people to get that first call.”

And he already has Dr. Rininsland on speed dial – just in case.

While the residents are the ones learning from doctors in the community, the doctors are also learning from their residents.

“It’s pretty common, especially in a situation when (doctors) haven’t had residents around a lot before,” said Waldner. “In my training in Saskatoon we had that benefit all the time.”

Dr. Rininsland referred to it as a “rewarding experience,” especially when he accompanies the residents on their mandatory academic sessions every Thursday afternoon.

“I think it’s making me a better doctor,” he said.

Dr. Nolan Dyck agreed with Dr. Rininsland, noting, “it’s a great opportunity to push myself to keep on top of things.”

Dr. Dyck added that the biggest challenge the residents will face during their residency is that the program is essentially one of self-directed learning.

“We will expose our residents to different cases, but the expectation is that the resident will learn around that case on their own and take the initiative to really learn about that subject a bit more,” he said.

As the residents are able to do things more successfully, Dr. Rininsland says they will be granted more independence.

“We're letting them do it, but we're looking really tightly over their shoulders, which is how medical education ideally should be,” said Dr. Rininsland.

According to Waldner, Dr. Rininsland was also very excited about the interns coming to Moose Jaw for a full two years, as opposed to the usual one or two-month stints.

“When I came to interview in Moose Jaw, I realized how much they wanted us here and how much that they were willing to help us,” said Waldner. “I saw that as a good sign that I would get good training here.”

Nathan Liewicki can be reached at 306-691-1256 or follow him on Twitter @liewicks

Organizations: Times-Herald, Prince Albert, Canadian Residency Matching Service

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Saskatoon Friendly Regina Swift Current La Ronge

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