'We're doing neat things here': P.E.I.'s 1st physician recruiter reflects on the job so far
Thus far, 19 physicians have been recruited in 2021
The Island's first-ever physician recruiter, Dr. Megan Miller, says there are more than 40 active conversations on-going with physicians the province hopes to recruit to P.E.I.
The new role — a joint project between the province and the Medical Society of P.E.I. — was announced back in January 2021, and Miller is just a few months into the job.
"There's been good feedback on having a physician in the role, this role, in terms of being able to bring forward recruitment challenges that have existed or perhaps barriers," said Dr. Miller.
"On the other end, I think physicians who are considering coming here, appreciate having a physician as well who can chat with them about what it's like to actually work on the ground, a lot of what I try to do as well is connect them with other physician colleagues here so they can gather more information."
According to Dr. Miller, 19 new physicians have been hired this year. 9 new physicians have started working thus far in 2021, with 7 set to begin this summer, 2 beginning in the fall, and 1 slated to start next spring.
Back in January, Miller said that the province had 23 vacant physician positions. Now, there are 35 vacancies — due in part to 9.6 additional family medicine positions recently posted on Health PEI's recruitment website. Officials with the Medical Society say the number of vacancies are fluid, as physicians come and go, and the system responds to growing patient need.
Right now, those needs are largely in family medicine, psychiatry, emergency medicine, general surgery and medical oncology and hematology, according to Dr. Miller. Some of her work involves filling vacancies, and the rest centred on recruitment for new positions.
'Burn out rates are quite high'
Dr. Miller said she can appreciate how the shortages impact the healthcare system as a whole — and she's keen to continue working toward improving this.
"It becomes a very stressful situation for other health care providers," said Dr. Miller.
"Not just physicians, but the entire medical staff … and we know that with physicians in particular, burn out rates are quite high, and the risk is quite high — so when there are stresses in the system, that has downstream effects for sure, to further impact and stress the rest of the healthcare system and the people who work in it."
Exit interviews will be an important way to gather information.— Dr. Megan Miller
Dr. Miller said the pandemic has added challenges to the recruitment process — because it's more difficult for locums to travel here, especially those who wish to bring family along. And travel restrictions aren't conducive to site visits for physicians considering a move to P.E.I.
But she's confident that headway is being made on physician recruitment despite the pandemic. She said P.E.I. has a lot to offer physicians, everything from lifestyle to competitive wages to team based models for family medicine.
"We're doing neat things here," said Dr. Miller. "We're moving forward with good initiatives."
Dr. Miller said another tool that's recently been developed is exit interviews for departing physicians.
"Exit interviews will be an important way to gather information on why people are leaving, and what can we be doing differently to encourage people to stay," said Dr. Miller.
P.E.I.'s patient registry currently shows 17,467 are waiting for a family doctor — that's up from 15,300 at the end of January 2021.