More than 550 Dalhousie University resident physicians are working in hospitals, clinics and health care centres throughout Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island.
These young doctors represent the future of health care for the Maritimes — if they choose to stay.
“From the Maritime Resident Doctors perspective, we actually have one of the best resident contracts in the country,” Dr. Patrick Holland says. “So I think it’s a somewhat attractive place to work.”
Dr. Holland is president of the Maritime Resident Doctors as well as a third-year resident in internal medicine, currently working at QEII Health Sciences Centre.
Following in the footsteps of a family doctor father and public health nurse mother, Holland says practicing medicine has changed since his father was in residency.
“The complexity of patients and the amount of knowledge that you have to deal with on a day to day basis is something that’s an ongoing struggle for sure,” says Holland.
The ratio of physicians hasn’t kept up with the aging population or growth influx the Maritimes is experiencing.
“People are living longer, they have more health conditions,” Holland says. “We’re seeing patients with transplants, people surviving with conditions that they didn’t have before.”
Maritime Resident Doctors vice-president Dr. Todd Dow, a third-year plastic surgery resident, says the number of family physicians needed right now is staggering.
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“You look at medicine and over the years it continues to get more subspecialized as we continue to gain more knowledge,” says Dow.
“The sub-specialization is important because you’re getting experts in very minute areas of different diseases, but at the same time then you’re ending up with all these different avenues of medicine that need more bodies to fill.”
Holland says one of the major things that would be helpful for resident doctors is a health human resources plan.
“As we project two, three, 10 years down the road, what are the job opportunities going to be?” asks Holland.
He believes an HR plan can help start transitioning doctors into jobs, while transitioning doctors that are closer to retirement out.
Both doctors agree that there has been steps in the right direction by the province, and that ongoing engagement with resident doctors will be an important way to continue to move forward.
“The steps in the right direction right now are with recruitment, but I think we also need to work on retaining,” Dow says. “So what kind of benefits can we put in place, how do we keep the people we have?”