Welcoming Doctors to Nova Scotia: It’s a Family Affair

If you’ve ever had to relocate for work, you know that a job decision is oftentimes a family decision. Where would I like my kids to attend school? Can my partner carry on their career in the move? Urban or rural? Can I still do the things I love? How far away is too far?

When it comes to doctor recruitment, these questions aren’t just happening around their family dinner table – our government is asking them too.

We want doctors and their families to know that no matter where they choose to work, there’s a place somewhere in Nova Scotia that’s just right for them.

With the highest number of doctors per capita in Canada, our province is making significant advancements to curb the doctor shortage that’s happening across provinces and territories nation-wide. As of this month, over 110,000 Nova Scotians have found a primary care provider, bringing the average to about 6,300 people finding a family practice each month over the last year.

So, how are we doing it?

With innovative recruitment streams and new educational opportunities focused on ensuring our doctors have the full support and guidance needed to make their new community a place to call home.

A lot of that starts at the post-secondary level.

A new clerkship program at Dalhousie University’s Medical School will emphasize training outside Halifax; four undergraduates have already started their third-year studies in Cape Breton. And students enrolled in Dalhousie’s family medicine residency program have the option to study at one of six teaching sites across the province, from Yarmouth to Sydney. Studies done by the university show that 83 per cent of their graduates entering this program will then enter a practice in Nova Scotia. And just last month, our government introduced 16 – four this year, 12 in 2020 –  new medical school seats at Dalhousie University, with a focus on rural, African Nova Scotians, Mi’kmaq and Indigenous descent.

Bear in mind, we’re competing globally, not just nationally, to attract doctors. Because of that, we’ve implemented some innovative recruitment initiatives to sharpen our competitive edge on the international stage. With an expanded recruitment team from three to 11 members, the Nova Scotia Health Authority has increased their focus with the College of Physicians and Surgeons, and our province’s Department of Immigration, to help license doctors arriving through the Physician Immigration Stream. Forty-three doctors have been nominated through the program, with 21 now working in Nova Scotia, while others complete the process.

But what about foreign-trained family doctors who fall just short of meeting Nova Scotia’s licensing requirements? Is there a place for them too?

Absolutely. With a need for more primary care providers, especially in rural Nova Scotia, our government’s new Practice Ready Assessment Program assesses these doctors to ensure they have the appropriate clinical skillset to work here in Nova Scotia; five candidates have already been referred to the program this year.

Still, moving anywhere for work is a huge decision, which is why our government is committed to matching doctors to communities, not just vacancies. We want doctors who move here to stay here.

And who better to toot their own horn than communities themselves?

Just last month, our province introduced the Healthy Communities Stream through the Culture Innovation Fund, an investment of $200,000 to support communities in their efforts to recruit and retain doctors. With funding of up to $25,000, communities can have financial backing as they strategize incentives and unique ways to attract doctors and their families. That’s in addition to the recent $75,000 our government provided the Yarmouth and Area Chamber of Commerce, to help in their physician recruitment efforts to southwestern Nova Scotia.

So, while our work is not nearly complete, our government is taking firm action to fill in the cracks as we contend with significant population growth, and an aging demographic.

Nova Scotia is rich in vibrant and diverse communities that each have something to offer; when doctors are considering our province as a place to work, we want them to look no further than the abundant beauty of Nova Scotia.

We’re not just rolling out the welcome mat; we’re saying, “you’re already home.”

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