Sustaining Pediatrics in Rural and Underserved Communities
More pediatricians are needed in rural British Columbia (BC), but recruitment and retention remain a challenge. For those who practice pediatrics in rural areas, the role can be relatively isolated and disconnected from other pediatricians and pediatric resources. Sustaining Pediatrics in Rural and Underserved Communities (SPRUCe) is a clinical network that connects community pediatric providers with
interest in supporting and sustaining excellence in pediatric care in rural and remote communities across BC. The goal of SPRUCe is to support those providing rural pediatric care so that provider care gaps are filled, education and mentorship supports are available, and pediatric residents have a structured mechanism for exposure and contact with rural pediatrics.
Making a Difference
In just 18 short months, Sustaining Pediatrics in Rural and Underserved Communities (SPRUCe)—led by Dr. Kirsten Miller and Dr. Jennifer Retallack—has made great strides in connecting and supporting rural pediatricians.
Feedback and participation from rural pediatricians involved in the SPRUCe clinical network over the course of the year has been encouraging.
“Our CME session feedback has been positive—particularly through the Zoom chat when sessions come to a close,” says Dr. Miller. “Many participants have stayed online to chat and network after the formal sessions end.”
SPRUCe is also increasing interest and requests for support for rural pediatric locum coverage.
“One of the locum pediatricians who became connected to a rural community [Comox] through SPRUCe has now accepted a permanent position in that community,” explains Dr. Retallack. “And rural pediatricians have expressed appreciation for the logistical help provided by SPRUCe in securing locum coverage. Rural pediatricians regularly reach out to us when their need for locum coverage evolves.”
SPRUCe has also sparked rural pediatric mentorship opportunities.
“Two UBC pediatric residents established mentor/mentee relationships with rural pediatricians through the UBC Coaching and Mentoring Program (CAMP) over the past year, after SPRUCe presented about the CAMP program,” says Dr. Retallack.
The SPRUCe team also raised awareness about the state of rural pediatrics in BC by presenting research at several conferences.
“We presented, ‘Pediatrics in Rural BC: How Are We Doing?’, at the BC Children’s Hospital/UBC Department of Pediatrics Grand Rounds last March, as well as data from SPRUCe’s rural pediatrician survey at RCCbc’s BC Rural Health Research Exchange and the Society of Rural Physicians of Canada Conference,” explains Dr. Miller.
In the upcoming fiscal year, plans for SPRUCe are just as ambitious.
We’ll conduct a group discussion with rural pediatric locum physicians to determine how SPRUCe can most efficiently connect them to a rural community,” says Dr. Retallack. “We’ll also host another four-part accredited CME educational series, and explore opportunities to hold an in-person learning and networking opportunity for rural pediatricians.”
“In addition, we plan to repeat our survey of rural pediatricians, enhance mentorship of trainees, disseminate data and information about the status of rural pediatrics in our province, and collaborate with other regions,” adds Dr. Miller.