HALIFAX: Sites have been selected for new family medicine residency spaces in Nova Scotia, an important component of the plan to provide more Nova Scotians access to a family doctor.
Six spaces will be at a new training site in northern Nova Scotia. Two will be added to an existing site in Cape Breton, and one added to the site in South West Nova. A tenth position will be used for family medicine residents to gain additional clinical experience in an area that would enhance services in the community, such as mental health and addictions or oncology.
“Nova Scotia needs more family doctors, which means we need more family medicine training spaces,” said Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey. “Residency spaces are among our best recruiting tools and are one of several things underway to boost access to family doctors across the province.”
The 10 new spaces will be part of Dalhousie University’s Family Medicine Residency Training Program.
“This is a very important development for Dalhousie Medical School and the province,” said medical school dean Dr. David Anderson. “Training physicians in these communities will help meet the immediate health-care needs of Nova Scotians, while paving the way to better primary health-care access in the future.”
Research shows that the family medicine residency program is successful in keeping doctors here in Nova Scotia. For example, 21 of the 24 residents who completed their training at the Annapolis Valley site since 2012 have chosen to stay and practise in the same or similar communities. In South West Nova, four of the five residents who completed their training this year will stay in that region.
Dr. Karla Armsworthy completed her residency training with Dalhousie in 2016 and now practises in Bible Hill.
“Working in a community as a family medicine resident makes it much easier to transition to full medical practice in that community after graduation,” says Dr. Armsworthy. “I did residency rotations in Truro, so I know the specialists in the area and what kinds of services and supports are available for patients. Setting up my practice has been seamless.”
Residents spend two years in a family practice where they will follow a group of patients, gaining skills and experience in areas such as maternal care, psychiatry and geriatrics.
Residency training is a collaborative effort between the department of Health and Wellness, Dalhousie Medical School, and Nova Scotia Health Authority. Dalhousie’s Department of Family Medicine met with several key groups as part of the consultation phase of this project that led to the implementation of the North Nova Family Medicine site.
Dr. Deanna Field, a family medicine and emergency room doctor based at the Colchester-East Hants Health Centre in Truro, is the director of the new North Nova Family Medicine Teaching site. She says learning family medicine in smaller centres gives residents a wide range of clinical opportunities.
“Our learners will get to do everything, because we do everything,” says Dr. Field. “They’ll work with us to see patients in regular office visits, and follow them into hospital to oversee inpatient care, perform minor procedures and attend births, for example. We also cover emergency room shifts and follow our patients in nursing homes, among other services.”
The new site and additional spaces brings the total number of Dalhousie Family Medicine teaching sites in Nova Scotia to five, training about 65 family medicine residents in the province throughout the year.
The new site and additional spaces will open next July.
Government’s investment will be $3.3 million annually when the program is fully subscribed.