Dr. Bryan Skrenes issues call for rural preceptors for 2016-17

Bryan Skrenes
Dr. Bryan Skrenes, Course Director, UBC Department of Family Practice

Submitted by Dr. Bryan Skrenes, Course Director, UBC Department of Family Practice

Recruiting rural family physicians for all teaching and assessment processes has been an on-going challenge.  It has become progressively more difficult as two processes happened: the expansion of the UBC medical school class to 288 students per year, and the expansion of the residency program to accommodate the larger number of students (including 55 seats for international medical graduates) wanting to specialize in family practice. A substantial increase in the number of preceptors is needed to meet this demand for undergraduate and postgraduate teaching.

There have been additional demands on rural family physicians from out-of-province medical school learners seeking electives, the expanded nurse practitioner program, midwifery students and most recently, participants from the Practice Ready Assessment BC Program. The net result has been a very expanded use of rural family physicians as teachers and assessors that has made recruitment for the Third Year Rural Family Practice Clerkship very challenging.

UBC Faculty of Medicine is drafting a plan to simplify and reduce the communication burden for BC rural family physicians teaching at the medical school. However, this process is still being developed and will require time to be properly implemented. In the meanwhile, the medical school is still in need of preceptors to support learning. For the current academic year, 2016-17, we have completed recruitment and student placement up to the end of 2016 for the Third Year Rural Family Practice Clerkship. We are now beginning our final recruitment for January 2017 to May 2017. We need to place 95 students in 4 rotational blocks. The staff at the various distributed sites will be contacting all the rural family physicians in the province to see if they would be willing to take a student and teach them for a four week period.

This is very rewarding teaching. The students are very keen and very excited to be able to work with the family physicians and virtually always report this as the highlight of their medical education. Since we have done this rotation (about 18 years now) there has been a steady increase in the number of students wanting to become family physicians from about 25 per cent at the start of the program to over 40 per cent now. There has been a steady increase in the number of newly certified family physicians coming to join rural family practice as well.

In order to keep this happening, we need to keep introducing our medical students to the excitement, rewards and challenges of rural family practice. We also need to give our family practice residents the opportunity to teach students in the rural setting so that they, in turn, can become the future educators of future generations of rural family physicians. It is for these reasons that I encourage those who can to accept both residents and students into their practice to facilitate that learning experience.

I greatly admire the rural family physicians of British Columbia, many of whom I have personally worked with. They are a dedicated group of professionals that will rise to this challenge with great enthusiasm, as they have always done. Our rural physicians, by and large, have been simply amazing in their willingness to rise to the call for help and I have nothing but the utmost admiration for their hard work and dedication to medical education in general and rural family practice in particular. They have done an amazing job on all fronts and are to be commended for determination to help out all those asking for their help!