Milk River welcomed a bus-load of nearly 50 health professions students the last weekend of October for an experience they won’t soon forget.
Departing early from Foothills Hospital in Calgary on October 28, the group of medical, nursing, respiratory therapist (RT) and EMS students from the University of Calgary, Mount Royal University and SAIT, headed south to take in what was a rare small-town encounter for most.
“I just basically grew up in Calgary, so I have no idea what it’s like,” said Carmen Tran, an RT student at SAIT, while on the ride 300-kilometre ride towards the land of hoodoos, cattle and crops.
She wasn’t alone in her rural Alberta debut at the Milk River Health Centre that day.
“I’m not really sure what to expect,” said fourth-year U of C nursing student, Alston Seto.
Upon arrival, the students were welcomed with snacks, given a tour and then split into six skills training sessions led by local professionals.
The mixed-disciplined groups learned through hands-on training on subjects of wound care, suturing, intravenous (IV) starts, physiotherapy, intubation and spinal immobilization.
Participants later helped themselves to farmer-sized portions of lasagna, salads and dessert, served in the same bright, open room where long-term care residents are served.
Fourth-year MRU nursing student Jenelle Bourassa loved her experience.
“You just get a different feel like it’s their home,” she said.
The range of patients and cases managed by the health centre’s staff impressed Bourassa.
“There scope compared to what we think we know in the city is really different being in a small site,” she said.
Several more training sessions later, the students wrapped up for the afternoon to reconvene for a potluck community dinner in the Civic Centre gym.
Hundreds of the town’s roughly 850 residents gathered for the generous buffet of homemade cooking, followed by several short presentations, including a message from Mayor Peggy Losey.
Audrey Turner thanked the community and health care workers for rallying around her son, Ryan, 33, who suffered brain damage in a car accident in the last year. Thanks to community spirit, $25,000 was raised for some special equipment for his rehabilitation routine.
Amy Horgus, chair of the Quad Municipality Physician Recruitment and Retention Committee led a ceremony honouring local health care workers, current and retired, as Ryan handed them roses.
Students, including Seto, were impressed with the first day of the experience.
“I thought this was incredible,” he said. “I already feel very welcomed.”
The following day Paul and Marilyn Vornbrock welcomed the students to their farm for horseback riding, skeet shooting and hiking along the scenic Milk River in their pasture.
The weekend won over Tran, the curious city-girl and student at SAIT.
“If I was offered a job I would totally take it out here,” she said.
Seto was thinking strongly of pursuing rural career opportunities.
“There’s so many things that you can do out here,” he said. “I would do this again if I could— just sign up over and over again.”
Article and video by Britton Ledingham / @ievolvephoto