What happens when a rural medical clinic welcomes a steady stream of candidates for Practice-Ready Assessment (PRA)?
“You get to meet people with different backgrounds and cultures. You get to know them on a personal basis as well,” says Shannon McBride, a physician assistant who works with the team at the Hanna Medical Clinic in Hanna, Alberta.
“The patients see it as a positive,” explains Tannis Voltner, the clinic’s office manager. “Patients are asked if they are comfortable to see the PRA candidate first, before their family doctor. Only a very small percentage want to see the family doctor only.”
The PRA candidates who were assessed at the Hanna Medical Clinic have all been successful, with many now practising in rural communities dotted across Alberta.
The world comes to Hanna
“I love that, at each visit, I can meet another aspiring doctor doing their training in our rural setting. I always cross my fingers that they see the appeal of a small community and want to choose it for their own practice in the future.”
— patient at Hanna Medical Clinic
It all started with the launch of Practice Readiness Assessment Alberta, by the College of Physicians & Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) in 2010. A few years later, at the Hanna Medical Clinic, Dr. Emad Hanna (who coincidentally has the same name as his town) offered to assess candidates going through a PRA. Prior to starting in his new role, Dr. Hanna remembers having enjoyed the required assessor training offered through CPSA.
“It is part of my personality. If you are able to do something to help somebody, why not?” he mentions of his role as an assessor. An International Medical Graduate (IMG) from Egypt himself, Dr. Hanna understands how difficult it can be to begin practice in Canada. He also values the training he received from assessors in Glasgow, UK. Today, he is paying that forward. The clinic has welcomed several PRA candidates for three-month assessments each year.
Caring for a vast community
The program has been a boon to rural Alberta, affirms Ms. McBride. “These days, a lot of the residents want to be in the cities, so we view the arrival of any new doctor who wants to practise in a rural area as a positive.” Located approximately 200 km northeast of Calgary, Hanna is in a large agricultural region. The clinic covers a wide catchment area, as far east as Cereal, south to Cessford and Pollockville, west to Delia and Morrin, and north to Castor, Endiang and Byemoor.
“We have known Dr. Hanna since he came to Hanna. He dedicates many hours to helping young university students and new out-of-country doctors coming to Canada, which is amazing! We have met many very interesting people who have worked with him.”
— patient at Hanna Medical Clinic
Ms. Voltner confirms each doctor sees 20 to 30 patients daily, plus urgent cases. Ms. McBride adds that the family physicians on staff not only work at the clinic, but also do rounds at Hanna General Hospital, a long-term care facility, and a seniors’ lodge. In addition, physicians participate in an on-call rotation at the Hanna General Hospital’s Emergency Department. “We get everything and everyone,” states Ms. McBride. “The area has a lot of seniors, so we see the demands on health care that come with aging.”
According to Ms. Voltner, “We have also observed that PRA candidates are keen to get involved in the rural community.” As an example, one PRA candidate brought her entire family to the community. “Her kids had an amazing experience. They made friends right off the bat and went out for Halloween.”
Hanna’s recipe for PRA success
Ms. Voltner credits Dr. Hanna with much of the success of the PRA candidates. “He is a phenomenal assessor. He is so approachable and takes the time to explain the why and how.”
Dr. Hanna says the PRA candidates all do well, but while some are “ready to start right away,” others “need more time in practice.” In addition to assessing, Dr. Hanna directs PRA candidates to use clinical practice guidelines and to send patients for consultations with specialists in cases needing more complex medical judgment.
Ms. McBride believes the excellent atmosphere at the clinic also helps. “It’s a great place to work. It’s like a family. We work well together and we help each other out.”
The clinic contributes to the success of IMGs, but it also benefits from it. In addition to Dr. Hanna, one of the other family physicians at the clinic is an IMG. The clinic will soon welcome a new doctor on staff. Not surprisingly, she’s a graduate of a PRA.
The Hanna Medical Clinic provides family medicine in a modern facility that serves a large rural catchment area.
Members of the clinic team (left to right):..
Tannis Voltner, office manager; Dr. Emad Hanna, family physician; and Shannon McBride, physician assistant.