Second year medical student Vienna Peters is from Morden, She is also the co-president of the Rural Interest Group (RIG), a team of six medical students that work and collaborate with the rural health regions to bring mainly first and second year medical students to the different regions for clinical skills training, networking and giving them an opportunity to learn about rural life and what rural opportunities are available in rural regions across Manitoba.  

On Saturday, 30 students spent the day at Boundary Trails Health Centre (BTHC) to take part in hands-on learning, according to Peters. 

"Meds one and two at U of M we do a lot of lecture-based learning, so in this sense we are allowed or able to participate in clinical stations like intubation, we learned how to do endometrial biopsies, we did suturing, we did point of care ultrasound. So, lots of cool stations where students could hone-in on some skills. And then, we had a question panel with some of the local physicians at Menzies (Medical Centre) and CW Wiebe (Medical Centre), asking about their areas of specialty, and what interests them, and why they would advocate for us to come live and work in rural communities."  

Peters is grateful for the time doctors and residents took to spend the entire day with the students. Coming from Morden, she said it made her smile to hear their insights and to listen to them talk about their areas of service, specialties and their anecdotes, noting it was impactful and she heard great feedback from the participating medical students.  

She explained the benefits of these visits.  

"By having these students come to medical facilities in rural locations, it allows for a fostering of relationships between the local healthcare providers and then understanding the needs in those communities. Are there shortages in certain specialties that we can have students interested in those specialties come in for or set up shop for? All of those different pieces." 

Peters noted events like this contribute to a sense of social responsibility and an understanding of all the social determinants of health that may be unique to communities, and they foster a sense of wanting to be a part of making change for people and to give back to those who have given so much. 

Vienna Peters in a clinical session.Vienna Peters in a intubation clinical session.

After participating in various clinical stations, a diverse panel of doctors in variety stages of their practice answered questions.  

Peters noted the ones from urban areas had some specific concerns. 

"One area of questioning was about specialties and how they could practice maybe more niche practices in rural communities, and there were lots of good answers for that with Boundary Trails and the expansion coming and their desire to get pediatricians in and the bed count increasing at the facility. And I think it gave all of us a better understanding of the demand for specific specialties there, and it helped us identify where there may be shortages of specific healthcare professionals, and also give us a sense of the local job market and how there are opportunities for us to come forward." 

Panel of doctors

Students also asked about why doctors chose to practice medicine rurally. A strong sense of community was a common answer, but so was living in a picturesque landscape, with open spaces and a very enjoyable lifestyle. 

Peters added her own perspective on the benefits. 

"I think working in a rural community or smaller community, there's more opportunity to see the immediate impact you have by working there, just because of the smaller size. You see it in your community, and I think that's a big piece of rural work too."  

When asked why she would recommend choosing to practice in the Pembina Valley she said the leaving you feeling like you are home and always welcome is a big reason to consider coming to BTHC. 

"It's such a team-oriented community, where everyone will show up in times of need. I think that's really special about the Morden area, and I think that's one of my favorite things about it. For me, it's just home. And even if you're not from there, I think you would feel like home entering the community."