Sometimes the best way to get something done is to start from the ground up.
In the east-central Alberta town of Vegreville, a group of innovative thinkers asked a new question: what would happen if those in the up-and-coming workforce who already love rural Alberta developed a passion for a career in health care?
“We wanted to be able to grow our own medical professionals,” said Taneen Rudyk, chair of the St. Joseph’s Hospital Board and Town Councillor in Vegreville.
The result was a Rural Health High School Skills Event at St. Joseph’s General Hospital that saw 50 students attend from St. Mary’s Catholic High School and Vegreville Composite High. It was truly a community effort as Covenant Health, Alberta Health Services, the Vegreville Region Health Physician & Health Professionals Attraction & Retention Committee, St. Joseph’s Hospital, and municipal leaders from the Town and County, came together with RhPAP to make it happen.
“Everybody likes to talk about that, but this is actually collaboration in action,” Rudyk said.
On Friday, April 26, students swapped out a day in the classroom for some hands-on learning with local health professionals. Stations included IV insertion, spine stabilization, emergency response, suturing, dialysis, respiration, intubation, ultrasound, x-ray, and more.
“We knew there were students at our high schools who were wanting to become health professionals, and we thought we’d give them a taste of what they’re looking at,” said Ann Waters, chair of the local attraction and retention committee.
It’s a potent combination when you’ve got an organization like RhPAP so closely aligned with the community recruitment efforts and the health-care delivery system… it really bodes well for the future of health care in Alberta. – Dr. Dan Edgcumbe
Coun. Tara Kuzio with the County of Minburn said their goal is to “keep rural sustainable.” They hope those who grew up rurally will remember the great lifestyle and return to small communities to continue their careers and raise their families.
Tammy Shapka, Senior Care Manager for AHS, said an event like this in high school would have helped her decide earlier about her own career aspirations.
“It was a great experience,” said Grade 11 student Alexis Salisbury, adding she is now more confident in her decision to become a general practitioner.
Grade 11 student Katie Zuk, from Vegreville Composite, said she enjoyed the hands-on aspect of the event, which gave her more career insight than “reading a three-sentence paragraph” online.
“I just wanted to come experience the hospital, get more of an in-depth feel of what it’s like to be in a hospital environment,” said Andrew Kuzicki, a Grade 12 student from St. Mary’s Catholic High School who will be attending the nursing program at the University of Alberta this fall.
As for the highlight, RN Kim Weinkauf says it was suturing the pork hocks.
“Their eyes were just sparkling,” explained Weinkauf, unit manager at St. Joseph’s, adding later that a career in rural Alberta provides an opportunity to hone a wide variety of skills.
Instructor Dr. Dan Edgcumbe, Central Zone Medical Director for AHS, said he hopes the students take away a determination to work hard, believe in themselves, and consider returning to their rural roots.
“It’s a potent combination when you’ve got an organization like RhPAP so closely aligned with the community recruitment efforts and the health-care delivery system… it really bodes well for the future of health care in Alberta,” Edgcumbe added.
- Article and photos by Alicia Fox