Two health-care management students from Red Deer College are hoping to shed light on what it takes to attract and retain health-care professionals in rural Alberta.
Andrea Luca and Roxanne Hiebert’s Capstone Project (a final class assignment involving an in-depth case study) delves into the world of rural health care to learn about what entices health-care professionals to choose — or not choose — postings outside of an urban area.
“[We’re going to ask] some of the people already working in rural health … ‘What are some of the challenges? Why did you choose rural?’ Then, we’ll ask some people in urban areas, ‘What do you think the differences are in working in rural health? Why didn’t you choose [that route]?’ We want to compare both sides,” explained Luca, a registered nurse at the Red Deer Regional Hospital Centre.
The pair decided to conduct their research in Rimbey, a town of about 3,000 people northwest of Red Deer.
It really did open my eyes as a city girl to the local realities [of rural nurses].
Rimbey nurses will complete a survey pertaining to job postings in rural areas. The students hope to hold a focus group later in the research process to ask similar questions of Red Deer nurses to get an urban perspective.
“It really did open my eyes as a city girl to the local realities [of rural nurses],” said Hiebert, who works in health information management at the Red Deer Hospital. “It was educational … because we do have an emergency room that’s open 24 hours; we do have someone on call to do surgery.”
“One thing I noticed [in Rimbey] is how much the community is involved… compared to the city,” she added.
The project continues to evolve as more information comes forward, but the pair hopes to develop a research template that can be applied to other areas.
“We want to pitch the idea that a community can not only highlight their community, but the [medical] facility as well,” Hiebert said, noting the concept could be applied to all health-care disciplines down the road.
“A nurse might want to know [if a] facility do[es] labour and delivery. How many deliveries do they do a year? Do they have this machine or that service or this technology?” explained Luca.
They recognize compiling information on rural communities throughout Alberta is a huge undertaking that would far exceed the parameters of their study.
A nurse might want to know [if a] facility do[es] labour and delivery. How many deliveries do they do a year? Do they have this machine or that service or this technology?
If successful, this research template could also become a tool for post-secondary students to sort through the different avenues open to them in rural facilities when starting their careers.
“[Students] are young, they are fresh, and they just want to get out there and get some experience,” says Luca, adding this might be another way to encourage rural recruitment.
Luca and Hiebert will finalize their project in April with a presentation and written paper outlining their findings.
Barb Shellian, rural health director for AHS Calgary Zone, is lending her 44 years of expertise to the project as a sponsor. She already has an inkling of what the project may reveal.
“I think it’s going to reinforce some of the things we already know,” says Shellian. “There may be some new revelations… perspectives or things that we could try… The fact that it’s also going to highlight rural health is important, and recruitment and retention needs to have attention.”
“When you do a project and you’re dealing with human beings, sometimes, you get those aha moments… There could be a few of those too,” Shellian concludes.