Building on our successes: What will happen after the 2013 SRPC conference?

The 2012 SRPC Rural and Remote Medicine Course in Whistler, BC was the largest rural medical conference in the world with 750 attendees

In three weeks, the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada (SRPC) will be hosting its second BC-based conference in two years in Victoria, BC from April 4-6, 2013. The Rural Coordination Centre of BC (RCCbc) and the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC) have proudly supported both events.

Last year’s SRPC Rural and Remote Medicine Course – hosted in Whistler, BC – was the largest rural medical conference in the world with more than 750 attendees gathering to discuss rural healthcare. This year’s conference registration rates indicate that the 2013 Victoria SRPC conference could match or break the record set in 2012.

Given the massive successes of these SRPC conferences, how will RCCbc follow up on this momentum in 2014? Continuing Professional Development (CPD) Lead, Dr. Mary Johnston – whose team played a vital role in staging the two SRPC events – is already planning RCCbc’s next BC-based conference. As in previous years, RCCbc will focus on Emergency Medicine and skills training, offering hands-on workshops, lectures, and case discussions. In 2014, however, RCCbc hopes to offer two additional streams for rural physicians: mentorship and wilderness rescue medicine.

“Initial discussions with Laura Soles and Drs. Stuart Johnston, John Soles, Jel Coward, Rebecca Lindley, Janet Fisher, Jeff Eppler and the Kelowna ER group have been enthusiastic,” says Johnston, “All of these people are willing to be involved and are already contributing their ideas to shape RCCbc’s 2014 conference.”

Wilderness rescue medicine stream

Dr. Jel Coward works with Pemberton Search and Rescue and presents regularly on the topic of wilderness rescue medicine at conferences. He notes that rural doctors of all ages are interested in learning about patient management during a wilderness rescue. “Treating a patient in the wilderness can be really challenging because you are away from the ER and all of the resources there,” says Coward, “but it is also very rewarding to be able to successfully treat an injured hiker or skier and transport  him from a remote location to the hospital. You’re practicing medicine by your wits alone.”

Dr. Mary Johnston observes that wilderness rescue medicine is an apt stream for BC’s rural physicians, as wilderness tourism is the second largest contributor to the province’s economy, and is “outside our doorstep.” Johnston and her conference organizing team are currently looking for a suitable venue that will provide a range of wilderness activities and rescue scenarios for conference participants.

Mentorship stream

Several health organizations – including the health authorities, UBC and RCCbc – have formed a Mentorship Collaborative to explore the idea of creating structured mentorship initiatives for BC’s rural physicians and medical residents. Australian programs, such as the Rural Vocational Training Scheme (RVTS), have strongly featured mentorship as part of their postgraduate training, and have enjoyed high rates of retention as a result (approximately 55 per cent of RVTS trainees remained in rural practice following completion of their program). Dr. Granger Avery, Executive Director of RCCbc, would like to expand the mentorship conversation to the broader rural BC healthcare audience at the 2014 RCCbc conference. “Mentorship support should be present throughout the lifetime of a rural physician’s practice, not just at the beginning of a career,” says Avery. “Doctors want to discuss topics like managing practice burnout, and dealing with patient records after closing practice. It’s helpful to get feedback about how to best support your family’s needs in a rural setting, or how to plan for retirement. Mentorship supports rural physicians in their life and practice, and helps reduce feelings of isolation, which leads to increased retention.”

Commitment to hosting a BC-based rural conference

CPD, especially rural CPD, is rapidly evolving and although many courses and discussion groups are available online, rural physicians value the affirmation, updating and networking involved in meeting with their peers face-to-face. “Attending conferences help rural physicians feel connected, and less isolated in their practices,” says Dr. Mary Johnston. “Our event offers hands-on training in rurally relevant scenarios which help practitioners feel comfortable in their environment and confident in their skills, and leads to increased rural retention. Everybody benefits from these conferences in the long-term – doctors, patients, and rural communities.”

RCCbc and the Joint Standing Committee on Rural Issues (JSC) are proud co-sponsors of the 2013 SRPC Rural and Remote Medical Course being held in Victoria, BC from April 4-6. Look for RCCbc and the JSC’s booth at the SRPC conference, across from the registration desk.

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