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FFYFP Blog: First Five Years of (Rural) Family Practice

Written by: Dr. Everett Zdrill

Joining a rural practice or maybe scheduling a locum? Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned in my first five years in rural medicine:

Embrace the Challenges

The challenges of rural medicine can include, but are not limited to, a lack of resources, a high patient load, limited access to specialists and allied health colleagues, and long distance to tertiary care. Yikes. Embracing the challenges will help you develop an ability to think outside the box and really grow your problem-solving skills.

A Little Bit of Clinical Courage Goes a Long Way

In rural areas, you are often ‘it.’ As such, you will find yourself managing patients and presentations that are usually under purview of a specialist. This can be a great learning opportunity, as it allows you to broaden your knowledge base and to gain confidence. After a period of time, you will realize there is no problem for which you can’t formulate an approach. This is a rewarding, empowering feeling, especially for a new graduate!

Immerse Yourself in Your Community

In a rural setting, you will get to know your patients within a health care setting, as well as outside of it. This presents the opportunity to build strong, multifaceted relationships with your patients. Take the time to get to know them, listen to their concerns, and soon your understanding of the term ‘patient-centred care’ will expand well beyond what you learned in medical school. Building strong relationships with your patients can help you provide better care, and it can also make your work more fulfilling.

Learn From Your Patients

See above! You will learn so much from your patients. You will be with them through some of the most important moments with their lives. In my experience, all you need to do is pay attention and your rural medicine experience will serve as a free (and thorough!) education in sociology, spirituality, and philosophy. 

Learn From Your Colleagues

If there is any trait common to rural practitioners, it would be that each has an interesting biography, and each has unique life experiences. Take advantage of your opportunity to learn from these fascinating people! They can provide valuable insights and perspectives on medicine, and on life, that can help you grow as a physician and as a person.

Too Long Didn’t Read (TLDR)

Rural medicine can be tough, but the juice is worth the squeeze! Embrace the challenges, cultivate clinical courage, immerse yourself, and learn from those around you. You won’t believe the personal and professional growth that is possible.

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My name is Smitha Yaltho and I feel privileged to work as a family physician. Why? I believe that being a family physician has been the best job any physician can hope to have. I have personally grown in my own abilities and skill-sets with diverse opportunities in ambulatory practice, acute care and work in Facility Living.  Working in primary care has been exciting and has also afforded me tremendous opportunities for growth while still remaining stimulating in its complexity.  I believe that Family physicians are trusted partners in patient care –  every step of the way. 

Why are you volunteering to serve on this committee?
I currently have an interest in Physician Leadership and  trauma informed care.  I have served as a director with the Board of Directors with the Edmonton North PCN, Edmonton’s largest PCN. Thereafter, I have worked as the Director of Medical Services with CapitalCare (also based in Edmonton) for almost 6 years. It is my express wish that my contribution on the ACFP board of directors will highlight the excellence of family medicine that exists right here and now within the Alberta health care system. 

What about the ACFP’s work do you find most valuable?
Ability to highlight and further support the excellence of primary care right here in Alberta.