If it wasn’t for the Aboriginal Liaison at the University of Alberta, Nicole Cardinal might not have even been a doctor.
“She was the person to push me and say that even though you have a child, you can still do it; other people have kids and are able to go through school,” explains Dr. Cardinal who today is a family physician working on the Saddle Lake Cree Nation in Alberta, Canada.
While originally from Saddle Lake, Dr. Cardinal hadn’t always considered coming home to practice medicine. But her experiences in the rural residency program help to change her mind.
“I did a rural rotation with Dr. [Esther] Tailfeathers,” says Dr. Cardinal. “She was that person for me, who made me realize that if I want to go back home there are going to be challenges, but there are also a lot of good things being in your home community and being around your family.”
Doing a rural residency showed Dr. Cardinal that the decision on where to practice goes beyond geography.
“It’s the people, the community,” she explains. “If I had a good experience somewhere, then that would make me consider working there. Seeing colleagues work together, seeing how they get along and how they enjoy working with each other— if you see that within a community, that’s attractive. You want to get along with the people and enjoy your work day as much as your personal life.”
Now with her own practice, Dr. Cardinal remains a strong advocate for the program; not only as a way to expose students and residents to the rural and reserve practice but also to prepare them for the rigours of the job.
“They set you up so that you’re ready to work,” says Dr. Cardinal. “You get a lot of emergency room experience in [the] rural program. You see the things that you will really see as a rural physician. When I finished the program, I felt ready to work in the emergency room by myself.”
“The [rural] life is a lot different,” concludes Dr. Cardinal. “What I like about the rural residency program is the variety of stuff that you get to do and see. I like having some variety in my life and being able to jump into the emergency room. I like the different aspects of it and all the things that I get to do.”
This is part of an interview with RPAP during a 2016 Medical Skills 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.
Related: Why I Choose to Practice Rural Medicine: Dr. Nicole Cardinal