First impressions are powerful! So, when Suné and Dr. Ryan White came from South Africa to Drayton Valley for a site visit in 2015, the Pembina Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee (PPRRC) went all-out to showcase their community.
“They showed us around not only to the clinics and the hospital but all the social and recreational activities in town,” says Dr. White. “They took us to a horse ranch. We actually watched our first ever country music show here in Drayton Valley. So, the town and the retention committee really went over and beyond to make us feel comfortable and showed us what the town has to offer.”
The Pembina committee wanted to highlight lifestyle just as much as work environment. The Whites were impressed. After visiting several rural Alberta Communities, they chose Drayton Valley.
For the PPRRC, their relationship with the Whites was just beginning.
“They really made the biggest difference in helping us set up our lives here.” Suné White
“Once we actually moved here, they gave so much support,” says Sunê White. “They helped us find a place to live, get our first bank accounts, helped us finance the first car, get cell phones. They really made the biggest difference in helping us set up our lives here.”
The committee certainly left such a positive impression on Suné, she decided to join it. Today, she is president of the committee. “I love it,” she adds.
Today, there is a full complement of physicians in Drayton Valley. However, seven years ago when the Pembina Physician Recruitment and Retention committee was first formed, there was a drastic shortage.
“To get a doctor’s appointment was taking two to three to four weeks,” recalls Bernie Schell, an original member of the PPRRC.
Bart Guyon, Reeve of Brazeau County adds: “The doctors who were here, they were dedicated. They were committed. But, they were starting to talk about burnout. And that sort of stimulated the municipalities to get together and help create this committee so that they could find a solution.”
“I think the committee has been successful because it’s been consistent and it’s been very passionate about what it wants to do,” says Lesley Gigg, PPRRC member, whose husband Clive has been a physician in Drayton Valley for 27 years. “You know whenever we have a doctor come in who potentially is looking at Drayton Valley with a view to working here, the committee really has pulled out all the guns and tried to do everything they can to encompass the physician and the family and show them not just the workplace but what the community can offer.”
Those efforts have been very successful in convincing physicians and their families to move here.
“They were instrumental in helping us get sorted out for cell phones and vehicles to drive around with and places to stay for the first few months that we were here,” says Dr. Joel Giddey, who also moved here with his family from South Africa. “Really, if we had to come and do that without the committee, it would have been possible, but it would have been very uncomfortable.”
“We’ve made so many great friends that have become family.” Dr. Lealet van Staden
Another physician from South Africa, Dr. Lealet van Staden, was also impressed with the help of the PPRRC. “We were met by the physician recruitment committee. We were shown around town. We were actually taken to a Jimmy Rankin concert where we met some of the other physicians in town as well. And, I think that was probably one of the things that changed our mind and made us decide to come to Drayton Valley, was the great role the physician recruitment committee played in making us feel so welcome.”
“The people in Drayton have been so special and made it easy for us to be here.” Thinus van Staden
Lealet practises at the Shale Medical Clinic. It’s one of three clinics in town. The Van Staden’s have been here three years now.
Thinus van Staden, Lealet’s spouse, says, “The people in Drayton have been so special and made it easy for us to be here.”
“We’ve made so many great friends that have become family,” adds Lealet. “Great work environment. Excellent colleagues that I have here. It’s close to an airport. Close to the mountains. It has so much to offer. We have a little ski hill.”
An abundance of outdoor opportunities await those who come here.
Cross country skiing is a winter favourite, with the highlight being the annual Eagle Point Loppet. It’s another example of how volunteers here come together for the benefit of the community. Many of those who enter the race are local, but some drive hundreds of kilometres to compete here. Snowmobiling is popular too. Some residents are able to venture out right from their backyard.
In summer, there’s great fishing and camping at the many surrounding lakes, and all-terrain-vehicle enthusiasts have hundreds of kilometres of trails to choose from.
“Keeping them here, keeping them happy is one of the big aspects that we are focusing on right now,” Suné White.
With all the area has to offer, and the excellent recruitment efforts of the PPRRC, it’s no surprise there is now a full complement of physicians in Drayton Valley. So, the committee has shifted its focus to retention.
“Keeping them here, keeping them happy is one of the big aspects that we are focusing on right now,” says Suné White.
To show their appreciation, each year, the committee hosts a reception for local physicians.
“We appreciate that,” says Dr. Giddey. “It’s a nice time to socialize with the other physicians that we typically don’t get.”
The PPRRC also invites town and county councillors, as well as other health-care providers.
This year, the committee is planning to host its first ever RhPAP skills day for high school students.
“Hopefully those students will go out and study and become doctors and nurses and physiotherapists and whatever they might be interested in and then come back to Drayton Valley and give back to the community,” says Suné. “That’s our biggest hope.”
“One of our biggest needs would be attracting diagnostic imaging technicians.” Dr. Joel Giddey
The committee is also planning to broaden their recruitment efforts to include other health-care disciplines.
“One of our biggest needs would be attracting diagnostic imaging technicians, ultrasonographers,” says Dr. Giddey “We send more than half of our patients out of the community to get their ultrasounds done.”
Denise Holman, Area Manager for the Drayton Valley Hospital and Care Centre, says her facility also has some attraction needs.
“We are certainly experiencing challenges recruiting different healthcare professionals from nursing to allied health staff,” Holman explains. “So, we really need to rely and work with the committee to take that opportunity to take that support.”
The committee plans to greet other health-care professions with the same hospitality as they do for physicians who are considering practising in Drayton Valley. And, they won’t be resting on their laurels when it comes to recruiting physicians.
“Retirement is going to set in and bang we are going to be looking for three, four, five or six, new doctors in the near future,” says Schell.
The Whites have been in Drayton Valley three years now, and have fallen in love with the rural lifestyle.
“Being in a rural community, you kind of know so many people,” says Suné. “It’s a lot more personal than living in a big city. And we’re really enjoying that.”
Ryan adds, “We wouldn’t change it for anything.”
The Whites, Van Stadens and Giddeys, are three examples of the outstanding achievements of past and present committee members in recruiting physicians and their families to Drayton Valley.
Congratulations to the Pembina Physicians Recruitment and Retention Committee, recipients of the 2018 Rhapsody Community Award!
“They’re a solid bunch of people, dedicated to what they do,” says Dr. Clive Gigg.
Dr. Giddey adds, “I think they deserve a pat on the back and the utmost recognition for essentially saying we want to help our community and this is one of the ways we can do it.”
“I’m thrilled the committee is receiving the Rhapsody Award of 2018,” says Lesley Gigg. “I wasn’t on the initial committee, but I know the members that are and they have worked so hard for this.”
“Congratulations Pembina committee on winning the award,” says Denise Holman. “You are certainly deserving of it.”