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Bonnyville hopes to attract healthcare students to work in rural areas


BONNYVILLE – From Feb. 2 to 4, Bonnyville is welcoming medical and nursing students from MacEwan University and the University of Alberta with the hope of getting them to practice in rural areas. The event, organized by the Rural Health Professions Action Plan committee along with local healthcare professionals, is meant to inspire students to work in rural communities by providing hands-on practice with a fun weekend retreat. 

“Throughout the weekend, medical and nursing students will have unique opportunities to interact with healthcare professionals and learn about the unique scope of rural practice,” a Rural Health Professions Action Plan press release reads.  

“The nursing and medical students will be visiting the covenant health site, practicing some skills that those healthcare workers do every day,” says Shanda Berns, senior manager of the Rural Health Professions Action Plan. 

During the retreat, healthcare students will have the chance to put their job training into practice. Students will get a tour of the Covenant Health facility where they will practice suturing, IV starts, neonatal management, and airway management skills. Berns also mentions students will get the opportunity to have one-on-one conversations with rural healthcare professionals. 

But working in rural areas also comes with many challenges. Berns admits the staffing shortages can be an obstacle with many healthcare workers having to take extra shifts to make sure hospitals and clinics are open.  

Another challenge is diagnostics and specialty care, which is not always available for patients in rural areas, access to supplies, and retention of healthcare workers. 

Regarding the benefits of working in rural areas, Berns says the community is very much like a family. Additionally, working in rural communities provides healthcare workers to expand their scope of skills and practice that is not necessarily found in urban settings. 

The hands-on experience can help inspire healthcare students to work in rural areas. Students will also experience local culture by visiting the recreational centre, and potentially participating in winter activities like snowmobiling, ice fishing and snow tubing, while getting a tour of Bonnyville and the surrounding area. 

“That's to highlight what's available in the area and to have discussions with those community members on why it's a great place to live, work and play,” says Berns. 

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