The Flagstaff County skills day starts here in a town with medieval names. And there, not far from the corner of Galahad and Guinevere, is Sir Galahad himself, nobly standing guard over rail lines and graineries. But why is he locked up behind a wire mesh fence?
“The rumours are that one of the grad classes back in the mid-nineties tried to decapitate Sir Galahad”
Katrina Smith manages the Galahad Health Centre. There are 20 long term care beds here. and today she is touring 55 post-secondary healthcare students from Calgary. Katrina worked in Calgary for 10 years as an RN but left to practise, and start a family in rural Alberta.
“Best decision I ever made. Coming out here from a work perspective, it gives me the opportunity to expand my scope as a nurse. Now managing, but I had a chance to work long term care, acute care, emerg,” says Katrina Smith, Care Manager, Galahad Health Centre.
Next, paramedics simulate the rescue of a stroke patient, in this case played by a healthy student.
“Give yourself a little hug if you can. It’s gonna feel weird but we’ve got you, okay.”
Advanced care paramedic Gordon Stevenson, based in nearby Forestburg, loves the challenges of working rurally.
“It’s incredible. It’s a long transport time so you get more interaction with your patients. You really get to use all your skill sets and make a difference.”
Back on the bus and northbound to Killam, a community of roughly 1000 people that serves a large farming community. The rest of this skills day will be held here at the Killam Healthcare Centre. Unique to this event, is a dementia simulation. Half the students play the role of a dementia patient while the others observe. Then they switch. The goal?
“Teach the students what it’s like to have this disease and be able to empathize with them. And not treat them as a child but to treat them as a human being that has a disease.”
Geri Clark, site administrator at the Killam Health Centre, played a large part in organizing the day. She’s hopeful that some of the students will return here someday.
She says, “If I was able to recruit a physician, or a nurse or a physiotherapist or a paramedic, that would be successful for me but even if I don’t, who knows down the road maybe they’ll have something in the back of their mind that one day it might be nice to come to rural Alberta.”
Dr. Sam Ogbeide led the ultrasound station. He later spoke to the students at the dinner.
“Working as a physician in a rural area, is the best kept secret as a medical professional. There is so much you learn.”
They also heard from a physiotherapist who didn’t know anyone when she first came here from Toronto.
“But it was an amazing experience. Everyone was so welcoming. I got more hugs here than I ever did in Toronto, I think.”
The students toured a couple of the bigger employers in the area. Battle River Implements has a farm equipment inventory of over 40 Million dollars.
“We have one gentleman south of town that seeds 45-thousand acres.”
On the way back to Calgary, a stop at Atco’s Battle River Generating Station. About a hundred people work here and supply power to 300,000 homes.
Then it’s homeward bound with a better idea of what rural practice and lifestyle are like in Flagstaff County.