“Throughout my whole university career, I think the job that I wanted to do was rural,” says Dr. Nicole Cardinal. “And coming back to Saddle Lake knowing that they do need staff to work in the Health Centre, knowing that we’re always struggling rurally to have physicians … I think this has always been a job for me.”
Dr. Cardinal is a family physician practicing in the town of St Paul, and on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation, in Alberta, Canada. Originally from the Saddle Lake community, Dr. Cardinal came back home after spending some time in Edmonton, living and study at the University of Alberta.
While there are both positives and negatives to being in the city, she admits to preferring “the slow pace of the rural life. I like to go through Tim Horton’s and be the only one in line.”
“My time is the thing that I value most,” says Dr. Cardinal. “If I can get most out of my time to be with my family, then that’s where I like being.”
Working on a rural reserve is not without its challenges as there are issues with overcrowding, limited financial resources, and the necessity to travel to access certain services. Yet, for Dr. Cardinal, it remains a great place to life and work.
She says that, “a lot of people have misconceptions about reserves, that they’re scary places to be, that we’re not good facilities to be working in. But our facility here is a great example of what things can look like: we have lab, we have an ultrasound tech, we have a dentist, a pharmacy, and nurses.”
“The reason that we’re here is that we enjoy being here,” concludes Dr. Cardinal. “We like the community and we like the work that we do.”
This is part of an interview with RPAP during a 2016 Medical Skills Weekend Event. The Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan supports Alberta's rural practitioners, their families and communities in improving the quality of rural health care by offering comprehensive, integrated initiatives to enhance rural medical services, education, attraction, recruitment, and retention.