April 4, 2018 • 0 Comments

• Written by Bobby Jones

43 health-care students travelled two and a half hours northwest of Edmonton for the first ever skills weekend held in Swan Hills.  The students were from the University of Alberta and NAIT. 

It was an opportunity for them to learn hands on medical skills and get a flavour of what practice and lifestyle are like in a rural community.

Darby Brox, a resident physician in Swan Hills, showed students the fine art of suturing.

RhPAP, the Rural Health Professions Action Plan, hosts skills events like this at various stops throughout rural Alberta each year.  Here in Swan Hills, we partnered with the Swan Hills Community Health Board to host the event.

“What we want to do is raise their attention to the fact that rural medicine is a little more special,” says Jeff Goebel, Chair of the Swan Hills Community Health Board.  “And rural medicine isn’t anything to be afraid of.”

Kori Irving, an RN at the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre, taught IV Starts.

Kori, a registered nurse who came here all the way from Tennessee in 2009, hosted the IV Starts station.

“I learned a lot of my technical skills from a lot of physicians and older nurses both here as well as in Whitecourt.  So I’m happy to pass down what they taught me”, says Kori.

Both of Swan Hills physicians were hosting skill stations.  Dr Mohamed Sfaxi taught airway management and intubation, and Dr. Islam Elawadly hosted casting. 

Dr. Elawadly was impressed with how well the students worked together.

Dr. Elewadly, one of two physicians in Swan Hills, shows students how to cast.  He came to Swan Hills about a year and a half ago from Dubai.

“So they help each other with the training,” says Dr. Elawadly.   “They’re even trying to explain to each other what they got from this and I really like that.  Especially in the rural areas you need that teamwork to get things done.”

“I think what really struck me was how close everybody works together and how much it really does feel like a family with the staff,” says Rebecca Yang, a third year nursing student at the University of Alberta.

“It was fantastic.  It was such an awesome opportunity to try some skills, things we are going to be doing in the future.  And also things that I would never normally get a chance to do,” says Kate Denison, a primary care paramedic student at NAIT.

Johnny Serrano, a third year nursing student at the University of Alberta agrees. “Skills day was amazing.  You get to see a lot of things that you don’t typically get to see within the urban setting.”

That evening the students were invited to a dinner hosted by the community. 

“Believe me, this is an amazing, amazing community,” says Roop Rani, a chronic disease management nurse in Swan Hills, who spoke at the community dinner.  “Like I never felt like I was in a different country, different population, different culture, no never.”

Roop Rani, a chronic disease management nurse at the Swan Hills Healthcare Centre, shared her experience coming and practising in Swan Hills.

The dinner was followed up with an opportunity for the students to try the sport of curling.  For many of them this was a first time ever experience, and while their delivery style was interesting, they did amazingly well.

Swan Hills is an outdoor lovers paradise, even in wintertime. 

Snowmobiling is a popular pastime in Swan Hills.  Residents are allowed ride their sleds down town roads and alleys on their way to their favourite trail.

Snowmobiling is a very popular pastime here and so is ice fishing.  The students ventured out to Edith Lake, just north of town, to dip a line in the water. 

Students ice fish at Edith Lake, about 20 minutes northwest of Swan Hills.

They were joined by many families from Swan Hills who were out enjoying a beautiful winter day.


The hope is this quick taste of the rural lifestyle here will plant a seed for a health care future in Swan Hills.

“I would definitely consider rural.  I currently work in the city for inter-facility transport. And I’ve done some volunteering and my practical in rural locations and I really enjoyed it.” Says Sarah Harold, a primary care program student from NAIT.

“Rural was something that I was already considering before this and this is one of those securing it for me (moments) that this is the right thing," says Kate Denison, primary care paramedic student from NAIT.  "Definitely the kind of place I would like to be in the future.”



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