September 20 2018

Although lectures and textbooks have their place and offer medical students with vast amounts of information, any current or former “med” student will likely admit the majority of learning happens in the field.

With this in mind, clerkships (where the student learns in a hospital setting) occur late in a med student’s undergraduate program after several years of classroom and lab instruction. Traditionally these clerkships rotate from one location to the next, which gives the student experience and knowledge at a certain point in time, but not necessarily a strong learning of continuity of care.

The University of Saskatchewan’s (U of S) College of Medicine is making strides in providing longitudinal learning through the Saskatchewan Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (SLIC) to medical students in their third year of study. The program began earlier this summer for three local medical students: two in Meadow Lake, one in Estevan.

saskdocs and its partner the Saskatchewan Medical Association (SMA) participated in a kickoff event with the students and U of S colleagues in Meadow Lake in early September.

Braydon Hager is one of those students. He’ll be in Meadow Lake for the next six months learning in the field. Hager says the program’s goal of learning about care from an admission to a discharge rings true and it is definitely something he’s noticed already since starting SLIC in Meadow Lake earlier this summer.

“I feel like one of the biggest strengths of the LIC is continuity with your patients. I’m finding that even in the first three weeks, seeing patients in the ER, admitting them on the ward, and seeing them in the clinic later, you really get to have a good relationship with your patients and you get to know them more. That’s one of the biggest strengths.”

Best practice in physician recruitment shows that exposing a medical learner early to a rural practice, community or health care facility increases the likelihood of a medical student returning to that location after graduating from medical school. That is why saskdocs supports U of S programs like SLIC and Distributed Medical Education (DME). This early exposure helps the student learn rural medicine, but it also helps saskdocs in its recruitment efforts in rural communities across the province.

Dr. Tara Lee, the U of S’ SLIC Director, knows all about rural medicine. She is a practicing family physician in Swift Current with strong ties to that community and rural medicine. She started a residency program in 2009 in Swift Current and saw its recruitment potential so she is glad to see it running so smoothly in Meadow Lake. Dr. Lee is encouraged that this rural exposure will help recruitment efforts in these areas.

“We saw what the (residency) program did for my community, how important it was to changing the whole atmosphere of retaining students, and also teaching them here. The whole idea of being connected to the university and having a university program of students, it just changes the health-care community, and we’ve been able to retain so many or our students.”

Key to successfully delivering the program are practicing doctors who can provide expertise and advice and have the ability (and time) to accommodate and teach the students. Dr. Rebecca Epp is Meadow Lake’s  SLIC Site Director. Epp’s optimistic that the doctors they have in that community will really make the program a success in the northwest.

“In order to accommodate something like this, the proper infrastructure needs to be in place,” Epp noted. “We’ve always had good doctors in Meadow Lake, but we didn’t always have the numbers we require to accommodate a teaching component. We have enough physicians now to be able to focus on both patient care and the teaching involved with SLIC.”

Evan Mah is the other SLIC student in Meadow Lake. Over the next six months he plans to use the experience to learn more about medicine and ultimately patient care.

“I found that when I spent time in the emergency rooms, I got stressed because I didn’t know what had happened after. We stabilize and then we ship away, whereas here, if I see someone in emerg I can book an appointment with the docs that I’m with later that week and I can see them later. I have seen patients over and over and it’s really nice exposure to follow a disease through its full process.”

saskdocs is going to check back with Hager, Mah and other students as they work their way through the SLIC program in Meadow Lake and Estevan. We look forward to hearing more about what they learned.

For more information on SLIC please visit the U of S College of Medicine’s website.


saskdocs recruits physicians to the province on behalf of the Saskatchewan Health Authority.