New residency program a response to need for more family physicians

Staff writer

On July 1, a group of medical residents settled in to clinics and health centres throughout Nova Scotia to begin the next stage of their medical education in a new residency program.

The new residency program was proposed and designed by Dalhousie University and the Department of Health and Wellness to help address the need for more family physicians throughout Nova Scotia. 

“This program is different than most all family resident programs because trainees aren’t split between specialties, rather they spend two years in a practice with daily exposure to family medicine and integrated specialty experiences,” said Dr. Jane Brooks, a family physician in Middleton who is also the academic curriculum and research director for the new program.

She has been working with her Nova Scotia colleagues Drs. Roop Conyers, Christina Mercer and David Nunn to develop the program. 

Annapolis Valley District Health Authority is the site for the new program, which will offer 10 placements in total. Five residents were placed this year and another five will be placed in July 2013.

This year placements were made in Annapolis Royal, Middleton, Berwick, Kentville/New Minas and Wolfville, with Valley Regional Hospital in Kentville as the regional centre. 

The Annapolis Valley site is one of the first in Canada to utilize the triple C curriculum approved last year by the College of Family Physicians. The new curriculum focuses on continuity of care, continuity of education/training, and continuity of evaluation -- all taught predominantly by family doctors. Training occurs over the two years of residency to provide a more comprehensive clinical training experience.

Dr. Sarah Surette is one of the five residents taking part in the program. She’s training at Middleton Collaborative Practice with Dr. Brooks, who is also a preceptor in the program. The training Dr. Surette is receiving provides long-term exposure to family medicine and practice management, and addresses the need to train more generalists in the province. 

 “I am happy to be a part of the new residency program. The most attractive feature to me was the continuity of care, which allows me to work with the same family practice for the duration of my residency,” said Dr. Surette.

The rotation system used in most residency programs allows residents to follow a patient for only four weeks at a time. The new format in place at Annapolis Valley provides residents with the opportunity to follow patients throughout pregnancies, births, development and deaths.  

The benefits to working in a collaborative practice are clear to Dr. Surette. She said she sees the value in offering a variety of skills and treatments to patients and providing more comprehensive care without having to refer to patients to a different location or larger centre.  

“I enjoy rural medicine, particularly as a family doctor-in-training, as I benefit from having a wider scope of practice than may be available to me in an urban centre,” she said.

“Already I have been helping with inpatient care at our local hospital, family clinics, minor surgical procedures and emergency room shifts,” she added.

Dr. Surette said she’d like to work in a collaborative practice after residency. She finds importance in offering patients access to more services in one location, particularly in a rural setting where many patients have transportation limitations.

By 2013, there will be two residents each in Annapolis Royal, Middleton, Berwick, Kentville/New Minas, and Wolfville.


Kim Bottomley
Associate director, communications
1-800-563-3427 ext. 4903