N.S. aims to recruit medical students, but takes different approach than with nurses
A day after Nova Scotia announced every nursing student who graduated in the next five years would be guaranteed a job, Premier Tim Houston didn't make the same promise to medical students -- but he did recommit to retaining and recruiting more doctors.
"People in medical school in the province, we want to keep them here," Houston said. "You'll see a similar initiative, a push to make sure that everybody graduating medical school here and elsewhere sees Nova Scotia as the place they want to practice medicine."
"What he said was a public commitment. We're going to work on the Nova Scotia residents and our job is to try and keep those people here," said Dr. Heather Johnson of Doctors Nova Scotia.
An office recently set up to retain and recruit doctors, nurses, paramedics, and others is already in motion as more than 78,000 Nova Scotians don't have a family physician.
"I think similarly to nurses, we need to match the person with their training and their skills and really what their preference is so we're open to working with any physician that wants to come and work here with us," said Health Minister Michelle Thompson. "I would say it's not quite the same approach, but certainly through the Office of Health Care Professional Recruitment, we are very interested in speaking to doctors."
Doctors Nova Scotia says recruiting medical students is different than nurses because medical students aren't matched with their speciality until late in their education. Early on, medical students don't necessarily know what area of medicine they will specialize in.
"You couldn't offer a job to every medical student because you might end up with 122 people who are doing exactly the same thing and, obviously that's an exaggeration, but it's not quite as simple," Johnson said.
Maggie Flemming, president of Dalhousie Medical Students' Society said she is very pleased to see the premier and health minister recognize the important role nurses play in our health-care system and that they are also interested in keeping as many medical school graduates in the province as possible.
"When a student finds a specialty they're passionate about – whether it be family medicine, ophthalmology, or pediatrics – there is still the matching process to complete. If students are set on a specific specialty, they often go wherever they are matched to," Flemming said.
"The reality is that within each specialty program there are only so many seats. If you don't match to your specialty of choice in Nova Scotia, then you are going to go wherever you matched. And often, once you've finished your residency, which is two to six years, you've put down roots in that community and are likely to stay there," she said.
Jason Bremner, a spokesperson for Dalhousie's Faculty of Medicine, said the school is putting a greater emphasis on family medicine in its curriculum, with the goal of having 50 per cent of its students choosing to pursue a career in that field.
"Access to family physicians for Nova Scotians, particularly in rural settings, is an issue that Dalhousie Medical School is acutely aware of," said Bremner. "We look forward to continuing to work with the Government of Nova Scotia to train excellent physicians that are responsive to the health needs of the region."