Venture to the far south east of Alberta, 45 minutes south of Lethbridge, or just 20 minutes north of the Montana border, and you’ll find Milk River, a welcoming community.
“It’s got a nice small town feel,” says Lori Kemble, a registered nurse. “We all do favours for each other. It’s such a nice community to work in.”
That warm hospitality can also be found at the Milk River Health Centre, especially if you’re a new nurse.
Four years ago, Lori Kemble started nursing here right out of school. “The doctors here are fantastic. They helped me transition from a student to a registered nurse.”
“So right out of nursing school I actually got a job here as a transitional grad nurse,” says Bailey Balog, RN. “So I worked under another RN. Now I actually just got a full time temporary position here at the hospital so I’m pretty excited about that.”
Bailey adds, “You have so many different people to ask questions to. We have our doctors. They are amazing. They help you out with anything you need. We have our EMS. We have our other nurse on the other side. They’ll all help you. You just need to ask.”
“We’re a very good teaching environment here,” says Lori Kemble. “We foster that.”
Mark Simons, a physician assistant, works in the medical clinic attached to the Health Centre.
“What I like most, honestly, is the patients are very easy going, general 'salt of the earth' type people. They are very wonderful and they are very appreciative of any help they get,” says Mark.
Dr. Pieter Krog is one of two physicians here. Before coming to Canada, he worked in emergency in a city in South Africa. “It’s completely different to what I knew back home but it’s working for me. I like rural medicine. And yes, you learn a lot on a daily basis.”
Milk River Health Centre serves a wide geographic area, so it offers many services, including a 24 hour emergency unit. There’s also long term care, homecare, physio, occupational therapy, lab and x-ray.
“I love how we have our long term care here,” says Bailey. “I virtually have 24 grandpas and grandmas who I love spending time with. And then I have the emergency piece to it as well. That’s a little more challenging and I can keep my skills up that way.
Roughly 850 people live in Milk River with thousands more in the surrounding area.
“You know everyone, pretty much. It feels like that,” says Lori Kemble. “You go to the grocery store and you see someone you know all the time.”
Bailey agrees, “I like the sense of community. I love it. I’m so comfortable here. Whenever people come into the emergency room, I kinda know their background and I can have a good chat with them. They feel more comfortable with me providing their care because I know them personally.”
In summer, this is a popular area for tourists. Less than half an hour away is Writing on Stone Provincial Park. Hundreds of years ago, indigenous people would inscribe messages in the sandstone. Warriors believed it gave them luck and future success.
To truly enjoy living here, you must have a love for the outdoors. Wildlife includes deer, antelope, elk, eagles, falcons and many more.
Warm summer days can be spent floating or kayaking down the Milk River.
There’s horseback riding, skeet shooting, excellent hunting and fishing, and truly stunning vistas.
Mark says, “We’ve got a big sky here. The sky is like a painting that just keeps changing. The sunrises and sunsets are staggering.”
An active Bailey shares, “I’m kind of a tomboy so I enjoy motorbiking. I like to work with the cows. I drive tractor. I play all kinds of sports. I coach volleyball here. I’m a lifeguard at the local swimming pool. So I’ve got quite a bit going on.”
Satisfaction awaits those who both embrace the lifestyle here, and embrace a healthcare team that works well together.
Dr. Pietor Krog explains, “Staffwise, I think we are a unique facility with excellent staff. It’s a well oiled machine. You have a multi-team approach that makes things easier.”
Bailey says, “I couldn’t ask for a better team. I just knew when I walked through the doors and started working that this is a long term thing.”