It was a weekend of fun, fright, and fundamentals as 55 healthcare students visited Rocky Mountain House for a specialized skills event October 13 and 14.
Hosted by the Rocky Mountain House Health Centre (RMHC), organized through the Rocky Recruitment and Retention Society, and sponsored by the Rural Health Professions Action Plan (RhPAP), the weekend gave students the opportunity to experience rural medicine and gain insight into how it may differ from their expectations.
“Rural health care is very different from urban healthcare,” shares Shirley Hope, site manager of RMHC. “Family medicine practitioners and general nurses who work rural acute deal with everything from beginning of life to end of life all in the same environment and need a knowledge base to manage all of those pieces and that’s a very different practice than one area of specialty.”
This was the second time the community hosted a group of future health practitioners, and for some it was word of mouth from past participants that encouraged them to take advantage of the opportunity.
“I heard from friends about it in years prior, a lot of [them] are in the Student Nursing Society at Mount Royal so we have a lot of opportunities like this,” shares Nicole Tailby, a nursing student from Mount Royal University. “So one of my friends told me prior and she said it was awesome so I thought I would come and give it a shot.”
Welcoming nursing, respiratory, physiotherapy, and medical students, Rocky Skills 2018 not only focused on giving hands on experience in their chosen fields, but also those they will work closely with in the future.
“In real life we work as a team,” says Kim Rogers, a family physician and co-organizer of the skills event. “There isn’t just a group of physicians, or a group of nurses, or group of physiotherapists, in the care of any patient. It’s a multi-disciplinary team that’s caring for that patient, so if we learn in multi-disciplinary settings then we’re more likely to work better as a team in the end.”
Offering six skills stations, the weekend gave students the opportunity to practice intraosseous infusion (IO) and intravenous therapy (IV), suturing, spontaneous vaginal delivery, physiotherapy, emergency medical services (EMS), STARS critical care training, and airway management.
“I think it gives me kind of a more in-depth understanding and respect for other people,” shares Sarah Moore, a respiratory student from the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT). “So that when I’m in a situation and I have other professions I’m working with I can better work with them because I can understand what they’re trying to do
“At nursing school we’re kind of taught that nurses are a jack of all trades and master of none,” says University of Calgary nursing student, Ashley Ly. “So sometimes when we recognize that we’ve reached the end of our scope we know who to call, such as a respiratory therapist or physio, so that really strengthens your team and gives the best patient care you can.”
Understanding the importance of a cooperative work environment, local healthcare professionals eagerly volunteered their time, expertise, and community experience to better help students understand what rural has to offer.
“I think every healthcare student should try to get into at least one [skills event].” — Helen Cai.
“I love to see the passion and excitement of our future physicians, physiotherapists, [and] nurses,” says Belle Clark, a Rocky Mountain based paramedic who worked with students at the EMS skills station. “It’s exciting to pay it forward and seeing the passion for their profession and continuing that on. It’s a privilege to have the opportunity.”
“I really appreciate the enthusiasm of the students,” shares Kathleen Zeiglar, a registered nurse who worked with students on IV/IO initiation. “I’m so excited to share my passion for rural healthcare, especially because we do so much here and often the publicity isn’t exposed as much. We hear about different campaigns regarding children’s hospitals but you don’t necessarily hear about the stories of what rural health has to offer.”
For those who took part in the event, getting the opportunity to experience just what rural medicine means opened their eyes and demonstrated the importance of keeping an open mind.
“We hear all the time about the need there is in rural settings for health-care professionals,” says Justin Haylin, a medical student at the University of Calgary. “But to really get out there and experience that, whether it’s through locums or coming out to events like these. Sometimes we get set and we’re like ‘oh I want to stay in the city, that’s all I’ve ever known’, but there’s so much more out there and you may just find and be surprised by how you actually love the rural setting.”
Part of building a connection within the community means getting involved with more than just the workplace, after all it’s the people and the surroundings that make Rocky Mountain House home and that’s just what students got to experience.
“My favourite part was probably just spending time outside, there’s a lot of nice natural areas and parks here, which is something I enjoy,” shares Mikhaila Fitzsimmons, who’s studying physiotherapy at the University of Alberta. “Just learning a little bit more about the history, I didn’t really know how Rocky Mountain House got its name, so checking out the fort and all that was very interesting to me.”
“Rocky [Mountain House] specifically was really awesome, everyone was so warm,” says Helen Cai, a medical student from the University of Calgary. “I love how everyone came together last night for the fright night, everyone gets involved with everything here and the hospital was pretty awesome as well.”
“I think every healthcare student should try to get into at least one [skills event],” adds Cai.
- Video and article by Lesley Allan