Learning and caring in Maritime communities

Just as it takes a community to raise a child, it takes a community to train a doctor. Throughout their education, medical students interact with a host of real and volunteer “simulated” patients, while residents play a vital role in providing care to thousands of patients in our affiliated teaching hospitals and family medicine teaching centres. The willingness of community members to actively participate in our students’ and residents’ learning is an essential component of their training.

Med students and residents build skills in communities across the Maritimes

Medical students and residents at Dalhousie Medical School learn the art and science of practising medicine from our 660 faculty physicians in hospitals, clinics and doctors’ offices in more than 50 communities across the Maritimes. Through this distributed learning approach, they experience firsthand the satisfaction of living and working in small towns and rural areas, and make connections that often lead them back to those places once they complete their training. This helps ensure communities have better access to physician services.

Map of distributed learning sites

Volunteers play the part of patient to help train doctors of the future

Thanks to more than a hundred people between the ages of 18 and 82 who take part in Dalhousie Medical School’s Volunteer Patient Program, medical students start practising hands-on clinical skills from early in their very first year. Students thus hone their communication and clinical examination skills, so they can advance these skills further and faster once they enter their clerkship training in third and fourth year.

Photo Essay: Volunteers key contributors to med school training

Community mentors help students understand chronic illness

Medical students are gaining a deeper understanding of the complexities and challenges of living with chronic disease through the innovative Health Mentors Program. This program connects small teams of medical students—and trainees in other health professions—with volunteer mentors who are living with a chronic condition or disability. Rather than providing advice or care, the students meet with their mentors on a regular basis over a year-and-a-half, to listen and learn from their stories. This experience helps develop them to become more compassionate clinicians with a more holistic understanding of their patients’ needs.

Med students learn baby basics through Child and Family Project

Volunteer families help medical students gain a strong feel for early childhood health by taking part in the Lifecycles Child and Family Project. Through this project, medical students are assigned in pairs to visit a newborn and his/her family early in their first year. The students visit their families several times over the first two years of the baby’s life, learning about development, nutrition, common health issues, child care, immunizations and more.

Successful pilot project sees med students spending entire third year in a small community

Dalhousie is pioneering a new approach clerkship training that places third-year students in the same community setting for an entire academic year—in contrast to short rotations in different locations. Launched at Miramichi Regional Hospital in 2012-13, the Integrated Longitudinal Clerkship provides students with the opportunity to get to know patients much better and to follow the progress of their clinical care for a much longer time than traditional rotations allow. It also strengthens their ties with a small community, giving them a better feel for the rewards of practising in this environment.

Rural Week gives first-year students a taste of small-community practice

Med students are introduced to the unique rewards and challenges of rural practice at the end of first year, through Rural Week. This program sends the students off the distributed learning sites throughout the Maritimes, to spend a week observing rural physicians at work. In addition to learning about medical practice, they are introduced to friendly communities and beautiful places.