Healthcare Roadshow teaches Rupert youth

It was an educational trip where the instructors learned just as much as the students.

Wenbin Wei

It was an educational trip where the instructors learned just as much as the students.

The University of Northern British Columbia’s (UNBC) Northern Medical Program’s Healthcare Travelling Roadshow visited Prince Rupert and Haida Gwaii schools from May 1 – 7, and post-secondary students in multiple different medical fields got the chance to experience what it was like to work as a healthcare professional in a rural municipality, something many of them will find themselves doing early in their career.

Dr. Sean Maurice, a senior lab instructor with the Northern Medical Program, helped found the roadshow and the tour is in its sixth year. Students from UNBC, the College of New Caledonia, the University of British Columbia and the University of Victoria all took part in the roadshow and experienced life in Old Massett, Masset, Queen Charlotte and Prince Rupert.

At the same time that these medical students were experiencing life outside suburbia, secondary students at the schools they visited were learning about everything from dental hygiene to occupational therapy.

“I’ve got 13 health care students from nine different fields who just give a one-minute introduction as to who they are and why they’re studying to be a speech language pathologist, a doctor or nurse, whatever it is they’re studying, and then we bring the students down to a big, open room with a whole bunch of tables full of equipment – things that students might be using in their respective field as they train,” said Dr. Maurice.

It gives the kids a chance to ask the medical students some questions that they may not ask their parents or older healthcare professionals in their own town, Dr. Maurice added.

“These students are generally a bit closer in age to the high school students … and so hopefully they’re in an environment where they’re comfortable asking questions like ‘Is it hard? How smart do you have to be? How much does it cost? How much do you make? What’s your favourite part?’ All those things,” he said.

While Dr. Maurice and the medical students didn’t notice the Prince Rupert students having any favourability toward one career over another, he mentioned that the pure exposure to such a breadth of activity choices is highly valuable.

“They’re seeing that there are a lot of different ways to help people as part of a [health care] team. Some [careers] are more in the background, some are decision-making, some are more caring, some are more tech-based and science-based jobs. So that diversity is really what we’re trying to portray,” the doctor said.

Speech language pathologist student Alannah Turner noted that the sense of cohesiveness in Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert is something that’s rarely seen in places like Vancouver, where she’s from.

“It was a sense of community that I really haven’t experienced before, living in the big city. I think that’s been really interesting for me to see; how a rural setting can change based on getting to know your community better and in a different way,” Turner said.

“There are different challenges, but definitely different rewards here as well.”

Along with occupational therapy and dental hygiene, medical, nursing, midwifery, medical laboratory technology, medical radiography technology, speech language pathology and audiology was represented on the roadshow.