They successfully applied for placements in the new Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (SLIC), launched at the College of Medicine this year. This means they will spend all 48 weeks of their third-year program in a single location, rather than moving through a series of six-week specialty-based rotations in a variety of urban, rural and remote locations.
SLIC Director Dr. Tara Lee, who practices family medicine in Swift Current, has seen first-hand the benefits when medical learners are part of health care delivery in regional and rural settings. She led the establishment of the family medicine residency program in Swift Current, and saw it change that community’s ability to attract and retain physicians dramatically, while improving the strengths and competencies of the care providers working with and training the residents.
“The two main reasons I became SLIC director are to improve our retention of Saskatchewan-trained doctors in our rural areas and smaller centres, and be part of introducing this much-needed approach to medical education here,” Lee said.
What differentiates the SLIC from rotation-based learning is the opportunity for students to be a longer term member of a health-care team, to follow patients over a continued course of care, and to gain substantial, uninterrupted rural medicine experience.
“While this is not new in Canada, it’s new to Saskatchewan and for our students,” Lee said. “It’s an excellent way to learn. These students become immersed in these communities and the relationships they form—with their physician supervisor and other health care providers, with patients, and with the community—are an integral part of the experience and their learning.”
Meadow Lake and Estevan have been established as SLIC program sites and, this year, two students have been placed in Meadow Lake and one in Estevan. They chose SLIC for a variety of reasons, including the opportunity to live, work and learn in a smaller community for a longer period of time, and to participate in patient-centred care. Building a longer term learning relationship with a smaller team of health care professionals and experiencing a wide range of patient needs are further benefits of the SLIC.
The program supports learners’ ability to experience a full rural practice with experiential opportunities garnered in the operating room, on-call in emergency, as well as while managing in-patients and seeing patients in clinic. While Lee said her focus is to ensure the success of the current SLIC placements and sites, the college does have longer term plans to expand the program to include more sites and learners in the future.