As some rural Alberta towns scramble to hire and retain doctors, medical schools in the province say they are starting to see more students answering the call.
It’s in part because of the Rural Integrated Community Clerkship program, which is run through the University of Calgary and the University of Alberta.
The program places medical students in rural clinics, which is important as roughly 40 rural communities are dealing with a critical doctor shortage.
Jenna Haugen, a student in the program who practiced for nine months in Rocky Mountain House, said the program was helpful.
"It's been really good — it's been a challenge. It's a really welcoming community," Haugen explained. "I've seen patients through multiple different venues, so in a family clinic, in an emergency department [and] in surgery."
The hope is some students will eventually take up a rural practice, which is something staff are already starting to see.
They credit the communities and the rural doctors who teach and mentor the students.
Dr. Doug Myhre, with the University of Calgary, said the program is proving to be effective.
"They're seeing the students come back and we're seeing those students then become residents and train more students as well," Myhre said. "We're starting to really feed our momentum and getting our own — growing our own if you will — to send them out to rural Alberta."
Dr. Ed Aasman works in Rocky Mountain House and says the learning experience has to go beyond the doctors office.
"The big thing is just to get their hands on and see what rural life is like and what it has to offer," Aasman said.