Rural family medicine education is invaluable

Rural practice the perfect balance for Dr. Funk

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Ask any family physician in Saskatchewan what it is like out there in terms of job prospects and they will undoubtedly tell you that there are many, many opportunities for them, which is no secret.

But, do all of those opportunities offer a sustainable work-life balance that suits both the doctor and their family?

That is what Dr. Sandi Funk was looking for and she found it in Meadow Lake. “For us, in terms of whether we wanted to stay in Saskatchewan or not, it wasn’t really a tough decision. We have lived here for 13 years, we have family here, we have friends here, my husband and six kids call Saskatchewan home, and it just made sense. The most challenging thing for us was to find the right community and the right type of medical practice.”

Funk has been practicing alongside professional colleagues in Meadow Lake since 2012 after completing her residency in Swift Current. “Some people ask, why Meadow Lake” said Funk. “It was just the right fit. We have a camper; we like to use the camper as much as we can; we love the outdoors; we want to live on an acreage that is affordable and, we love any outdoor activity. Professionally, I wanted a practice where I have supportive colleagues close by with a balanced and realistic call schedule.

"I also wanted a place where I could practice family medicine, have a diverse practice and do more specialties like obstetrics and gynecology. Meadow Lake was just the right fit for my family and me.”

David Fan, the Chief Executive Officer of Prairie North Health Region (PNHR), other regional staff look after all of the recruitment at PNHR. “It’s a challenging arena for the health regions, no question,” said Fan. “People like Dr. Funk have many, many choices because the physician shortages we face here in Saskatchewan are happening all across the country and the world. There are many hospitals, cities and countries offering lucrative incentives to family physicians. But I think when it comes down to it, and you combine the amenities we have here in Saskatchewan with the compensation packages and how communities are working together to improve physician retention, the choice becomes easier – the work life balance situation we offer here in Saskatchewan is hard to find anywhere else.

Saskdocs, provincial health regions, practicing physicians, communities, community recruiters and others are finding out more and more that by working together we are seeing better results.

For Funk, her choice was made easier by doing some homework early on, which by the way is her tip to other up and coming doctors: “My advice to other residents and medical students, experience family medicine in a rural or remote setting as soon as you can. It is invaluable. Use whatever tools that are available to you: externships, community experiences, etc. These opportunities really give you a sense of what it is like to practice family medicine in a smaller community.

"It is just a completely different and awesome experience.”

This story is Part 6 of a 12-part series with SaskDocs profiling College of Medicine grads working in Saskatchewan.