By Dr. Adam Mildenberger
So I start my day off like any other day – I wake up at the crack of dawn, pull on my best plaid shirt and my old cowboy boots, eat my stone-cut oats, and ride to the hospital on my trusty steed.
Joking aside, there’s not much difference between rural residency and urban residency. Patients get sick in roughly the same ways and residents help take care of them with the same long hours.
But there are some perks to rural residency: for one thing, a bad day of rush hour traffic means it takes you fifteen minutes to get home instead of ten minutes. Another notable difference is that rural residency programs are not service-based – in other words, our hospitals can (and frequently do) function without residents. Practically speaking, this means that there are fewer of us around the hospital, which means less competition for procedures or involvement in interesting cases. It also means that scheduling is significantly more flexible, and we enjoy more autonomy around our call schedules, our vacation time, and our ability to self-direct our learning.
With those benefits, though, comes the most significant drawback to rural residency: geographic isolation. Driving at least five hours to the booming cultural metropolis of Grande Prairie doesn’t appeal to most of our family and friends, so rural residents become a close-knit group. We also have to get a bit more creative with our social activities. There aren’t any trendy bars to check out or new innovative restaurants to try, but if you do some research you can find some hidden gems – for example, Chinese restaurants that have a secret Filipino menu, or if you ask the Egyptian restaurant ahead of time, they’ll make you a phenomenal tagine. And I kid you not, last year’s RAN Christmas party in Red Deer involved a magical Christmas elf, a back-alley tikki bar, and ended with us closing down Billy Bob’s Saloon. That being said, most Friday nights are usually spent having potlucks at a resident’s home.
Rural residents usually can’t attend PARA social events because of our distance from Calgary and Edmonton. Luckily, PARA sets funding aside to help promote resident social events in rural communities. Last year in Grande Prairie we played Knocker Ball (giant inflatable balls you wear while playing soccer to run into other players comically), hosted a few board game nights, and a camping trip in Jasper.
To sum it all up, even though we live in the periphery, we love it out here, even if we long for a Farrow breakfast sandwich every post-call morning.
Dr. Adam Mildenberger is a PGY 2 in Rural Family Medicine.