They start medical school in a health crisis. But Dal’s 26-year-old promotion remains hopeful

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The largest medical school class in Dalhousie University’s history began classes this week amid the current health care crisis in Nova Scotia. The 144 students are all from the Maritimes.

Future doctors may have their work cut out once they graduate. The chronic problems of health care systems in Nova Scotia and across the country have been in the news all summer.

CBC spoke to three students about their interest in family medicine, their concerns about burnout, and entering a turbulent healthcare system.

Some of the comments have been edited for length and clarity.

Dean says she would like to practice family medicine in rural Nova Scotia. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Kaylin Dean
Hometown: Halifax

In fact, I am very interested in family medicine. You have two schools of students coming into medicine. There are those who want the big business. They want the tumor, you know, they want this crazy acute disease. And then you have people who are really happy with the daily maintenance. And I’m definitely on this team. I find preventative medicine extremely satisfying.

I think where I hope to go to a rural setting and hopefully open my own clinic is that I would absolutely have a team. I don’t think you can just have a doctor. I think you need the health care team. You need a nurse, you need a pharmacist on site.

I think strong healthcare teams are the future. I think the reason we see fewer people wanting to go to family medicine is that not only do they want the tumor, but, if I go to family medicine, I suddenly have thousands of patients on my lap. I don’t have time to deal with it and I think it’s intimidating. I think it’s more intimidating than necessary. I think teamwork is the solution.

Eventually, we’re all going to face, ‘Wow, I feel really drained by our system, by our healthcare system, by too many patients, by our aging population.’ It will happen. I think preparing is the best I can do.

I mean, we’re talking about the stigma, you know, the burnout of doctors, mental health. It’s kind of open now. It’s not a crime to say, ‘Hey, I’m really struggling right now.’

And I think it will get even better the moment I find myself in a situation where I’m like, ‘Yeah. Yes, I haven’t taken a vacation for a year. I work 14 hours a day. I signed up for this though, and these people need me. I need help and I think I’ll be fine.

I think by the time I get to the point of having this conversation, the help available will be more robust. We are going to be more interdependent on these health care teams. I think things are moving in the right direction. Let’s just say I’m hopeful.

JnBaptiste says she hopes burnout doesn’t happen often, but accepts that it will likely be part of her career as a doctor. (Jane Sponagle/CBC)

Jacqui JnBaptiste
Hometown: Vieux Fort, St. Lucia/Halifax

I know the problem is not that many people enter [family medicine] that’s why things get so hectic. It will only get worse if fewer people actually join.

If I was going down this path, it would just be to encourage others that the only way to solve the problem is to fix it. So whether that means we’re going to be stressed for a little while, it’s going to end.

We should want to be all types of doctors. We shouldn’t avoid something just because it’s more stressful.

I always wanted to be one of those doctors who weren’t permanently stationed in one place. So I would like to have Nova Scotia as my main base, but I also want to teach.

So if I were to get involved in some sort of program where we go to different countries to teach different techniques, because I’ve been through these things while I was at home, and it’s beneficial because everyone doesn’t have the option to leave what he’s doing and go somewhere else.

But if someone could just come and teach all the doctors a new technique that just came out and something they didn’t know, they in turn could use it to improve the country.

I kind of take [burnout] within the career. I hope it’s not something that happens a lot. Because you’re going to get exhausted at some point, but that’s why I think taking care of yourself from the start and knowing how to fight any kind of stress would be useful. And overall encouraging people to take care of themselves because that’s the only way to take care of others too.

It doesn’t change what I want to do or why I want to do it. The only way to really make adjustments is for more people to get into medical school. So it’s good that they actually increased the capacity. So it may take a while, but at least we are helping to try to fix the problem.

It’s good to know that I’m going to be part of the change.

Ross Porter says working in a collaborative practice model would help him as a new physician. (Dylan Jones/CBC)

Ross Porter
Hometown: Chester, N.S.

I am interested in family medicine. Especially as a pharmacist, we learn about all the different diseases and all the different drugs that are used to treat the different diseases.

A lot of doctors just tell you to keep an open mind because we’re going to be exposed to so many different specialties and something might pique my interest that maybe I had no idea existed or wouldn’t have maybe not realized that I would be interested. So I think it’s mainly family medicine that I’m aiming for, which I keep an open mind and other avenues that I pursue would be like anesthesia or hematology.

We hear in the news about more collaborative practices. So, working as a team with interior professionals.

If I had a question, I would want to go see a colleague to be able to help me seek advice, especially when I am starting my career or other specialties. Suppose there is a psychologist or psychiatrist who also works in this building and it would be nice to be able to talk to them and learn more. So, I think, like many new doctors, it can be intimidating to be on your own.

I previously worked as a pharmacist in my home community where I grew up, so I was one of the most successful healthcare providers. So I’ve seen so many patients in my community and I’ve seen how important family doctors are and I think my main focus is I just want to help my community and that’s something I love TO DO. It’s something I’m good at and really looking forward to learning.

Three medical students from Halifax talk about their hopes and worries for the future

The largest medical school class in Dalhousie University’s history began classes this week amid the current health care crisis in Nova Scotia. Three give their opinion.

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