Nova Scotia adds 10 residency spaces for medical students

The province hopes that allowing 10 more medical residents to receive family medicine training in Nova Scotia will result in more choosing to stay and work.

'I think that will do wonders for our recruitment over the near and long term,' says health minister

Health and Wellness Minister Randy Delorey at Colchester East Hants Health Centre in Truro, N.S. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

Nova Scotia has its sights set on the growing pool of unmatched medical students in Canada as the province is finally moving forward on a plan to increase residency spaces.

Ten more medical residents will be able to receive their family medicine training starting in July 2019.

The hope is they'll stay in the province after they finish their two-year training.

"These communities where these residents are training will receive health care while these residents are training," said Health Minister Randy Delorey.

Dalhousie University's family medicine teaching sites. The green pins indicate community-based satellite sites and the purple pins are family medicine teaching sites. (Submitted by Dalhousie University)

Across Canada, 68 medical students were left with no training placement after they graduated from medical school. Without a residency, they can't obtain their licence to practise in Canada.

Delorey believes the expansion of Nova Scotia's program will push new doctors to the East Coast.

"We're one of the few jurisdictions that have committed to a sustained residency expansion," he said. "That's important. I think that will do wonders for our recruitment over the near and long term."

Success in southwest Nova Scotia

The minister uses the example of southwest Nova Scotia. This year, four of five residents opted to stay and work when their residency ended.

The placements will be based in rural parts of the province. Six will be in Truro, two in Inverness, one in the southwest region and one that will rotate depending on need.

"We have family physicians that do extra training in areas of need, like palliative care, geriatric medicine, addictions," said Dr. David Anderson, dean of Dalhousie University's medical school. "We'll be working with communities to identify what do you need? What is the skill set that you're particularly looking for?"

Tackling doctor shortage

The move is one piece of a complex puzzle to solve Nova Scotia's growing doctor shortage. More than 52,000 people are on a provincial waiting list and are actively seeking a doctor.

The province is also reviving a program to assess the skills of foreign-trained physicians and is aggressively recruiting physicians from the United Kingdom and Ireland to try to fill the gap.

This is the first time residency will be offered in Truro. (Carolyn Ray/CBC)

This is the first time residency will be offered in Truro. Until now, physicians in training could only do short-term electives in the area.

Truro is part of the Northern Zone, which currently has vacancies for 15 family doctors. More retirements are looming.

The plan was announced in the provincial budget in April 2017, but it's taken more than a year to work out the logistics and to notify the Canadian Resident Matching Service.

Immediate benefit

Anderson says the benefit will be immediate.

"It is immersing the residents in the community. They get to know the specialists and their colleagues in the area."

With the new positions, Dalhousie University will now have 68 family medicine placements in the Maritimes every year, the most in Dalhousie's history. Of those, 42 will be in Nova Scotia.

Dr. Karla Armsworthy said she was "super jealous" to learn there would be family medicine residency opportunities in Truro, where she is from.

She completed her residency in Moncton, N.B., before moving back to her hometown to practise.

She agrees with the minister that these positions will help convince doctors to stay.

"I think it's a great opportunity to let learners get comfortable in the community, learn about the community, learn what the challenges are, and really get integrated to be a part of the community."

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About the Author

Carolyn Ray

Videojournalist

Carolyn Ray is a videojournalist who has reported out of three provinces and two territories, and is now based in Halifax. You can reach her at Carolyn.Ray@cbc.ca