April 27, 2012
A new program aimed at producing more physiotherapists for northern and rural communities officially began this week. Ten students from the Master of Physiotherapy program at the University of British Columbia (UBC) are in Prince George as part of the Northern and Rural Cohort (NRC), an innovative approach to education involving the University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC), UBC, Northern Health, and local physiotherapy providers.
“Right now, access to rehabilitation services in the North is a significant problem, in part because there is a serious shortage of rehabilitation providers,” says Robin Roots, Coordinator of Clinical Education for the Northern and Rural Cohort. “Communities such as Prince Rupert have closed their physiotherapy department because of a lack of physiotherapists. The Northern and Rural Cohort is a new initiative that aims to address this workforce crisis.”
The Physical Therapy Northern and Rural Cohort is a partnership between the UBC Department of Physical Therapy and UNBC and funded by the provincial government. The Cohort allows for 20 physiotherapy students to complete the majority of their clinical placements in northern BC and rural communities each year, with UNBC serving as the clinical education hub. It will officially begin in September 2012. The students participating this week are a pilot cohort and in training locations at the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia, Home and Community Care, the Child Development Centre, and a number of private practices in Prince George.
The aim of the initiative is to increase recruitment and retention of physiotherapists to northern and rural communities by offering Physiotherapy students the opportunity to experience rural practice and life during their clinical education. “We are confident that once students experience life and learning in the North, and the beauty of northern BC, they will want to stay,” says Roots. “Ultimately, the NRC believes that through training students from the North in the North, they will stay in the North.”
The program actively engages local physiotherapists to train students and has partnered with Northern Health to develop innovative clinical education models to increase the number of student placements, while enhancing rehabilitation services in northern and rural areas.
Student placements are 5 weeks long and provide an opportunity for students to see the benefits and rewards of working in rural communities and the contribution they can make to improving the health of rural residents.
"The delivery of health care in the North is a team approach,” says Dr. Geoff Payne, UNBC’s interim vice-provost of Medicine. “This pilot group of Northern and Rural Cohort physiotherapy students is another example of how dedicated UNBC is to expanding allied health programs in the North and ensuring that we provide students excellent training opportunities with the help of our partners."