“We are very fortunate to have a successful program that has helped us attract physicians to the Creston Valley, and to encourage them to stay,” said Mayor Ron Toyota as he signed a proclamation he described as being close to his heart.
Family Doctor Week — Nov. 4-9 this year — recognizes the value of family physicians in a community, acknowledging the commitment they make to their patients’ health and wellness.
“With our recruitment program, first co-ordinated by Deryn Collier and now by Marilin States, we have been able to attract physicians to our community,” Toyota said. “Perhaps just as important, they have been people who also have young families. They come here because we have a wonderful community and natural environment, but also because this is a great place to raise children.”
Being a family doctor in a rural area has its challenges, too. In recognition of Family Doctor Week, the Advance asked local physicians to comment on the joys and challenges of practicing in the Creston Valley.
Day-to-day diversity in her work helps keep her skills and knowledge current, Dr. Carrie Armstrong said.
“The best thing is the opportunity to do it all — full continuum of care with great colleagues (doctors and all hospital staff). And living in a place that is great for families. I love the area and the community.”
“As for challenges, it is important to protect time with family,” she added. “Sometimes cases can be stressful to manage with limited resources.”
Dr. Barry Oberleitner spoke of the natural surroundings, too, and also about balance and his colleagues.
“The work and family life balance is good,” he said. “Work colleagues are incredibly good people.”
“Creston is a wonderful community that offers a diverse, challenging spectrum of medicine,” Dr. Atma Persad said.
Challenges are many, though, he admitted.
“Physicians who practice in Creston need to have acute/critical care/emergency skills, as well as those medical skills to manage hospital in-patients (and clinic skills), all without easy access to specialists,” he said. “Not only is there is a shortage of physicians who have these skills but this type of demanding work increases the stress of working here.”
“The best thing about practicing in Creston? It’s such a beautiful area,” said Dr. Fay MacKay.
Regarding the challenges of keeping doctors in rural areas, she said, “The main reason people seem to want to move centre around family issues (they want better/different educational opportunities for children, or better/different employment opportunities for spouses), and getting burnt out from too much work (this has not happened recently but has in the past).”
Dr. Erin Ewing quickly names climate as being a positive factor.
“The physical climate is fantastic and the four seasons activities are wonderful,” he said. “The political climate is supportive and proactive. The climate of the community is a perfect blend of small town and ‘a happening place’.”
But small communities also seem to share one thing in common.
“The fishbowl. Everyone knows you and many of them want to know your business.”
“The best thing about Creston is its community life,” said Dr. Raphael Elemuo. “Everybody is a brother’s keeper in Creston. There is harmony and peace here. Creston doctors work for each other. …
“One of the challenges rural doctors face is getting their patients to higher levels of care at appropriate time. Locum doctors are not readily available when they are needed at short notice.”
The positives and drawbacks of practicing in a rural community are often the same, said Dr. Randy Grahn, chief of staff at Creston Valley Hospital.
“The things that have been observed contributing to the challenge of keeping docs in rural communities are also the thing that bring them here; being a GP in a small rural community requires the kind of doctor that thrives on challenge and independence,” he said. “General practice is the most challenging medicine, and rural general practice relying on local colleagues is the most challenging of those.
“This takes a doctor that is committed to and thrives on the challenge, who finds the work interesting and rewarding. Keeping docs here is often related to the work-life balance. The workload must allow the docs time to be with their families and enjoy what a rural lifestyle offers. Their family must be happy and feel connected to the community and have the kinds and amounts of recreational and educational opportunities they require.”
Toyota said the community has jumped to the challenge of recruiting and retaining physicians.
“Construction of the aquatic centre and expansion and upgrades to the entire community complex were a message from citizens of the Creston Valley — we are people who invest in our community,” he said. “On behalf of those citizens, I want to thank our local physicians for their continued commitment to our health, and for their belief that our community has much to offer.”