First and second year Southern Medical Program (SMP) students gain valuable clinical experience learning alongside Vernon family physicians in community clinics and various departments at Vernon Jubilee Hospital.
Over the past two years, 50% of first and second SMP students have been taught by 24 different Vernon family physicians. With the continual intake of 32 new students to the program each year, the total number of students taught in Vernon is only expected to grow.
First year student Pat McDonald spends most Thursday afternoons seeing patients together with his family practice preceptor Dr. Stacey Butters in her Vernon clinic. As part of the MD curriculum, students are paired with preceptors on a one-on-one basis to gain exposure to patients and hands-on learning experiences. As a self-described kinesthetic learner, McDonald utilizes the sessions to hone his clinical skills and learn strategies on how to best navigate patient discussions and treatment plans.
“Dr. Butters focuses heavily on patient education and takes the time to fully explain her diagnoses and the available treatment options for her patients,” says McDonald. “Patient interaction is definitely one of her strongest features and her approach provides a great template in developing my own approach and communication skills.”
Over the course of the first two years of medical school, students are matched with seven to eight different family physicians gaining exposure to various types of family medicine. Students are able to work with a broad patient demographic while learning the different approaches taken by family physicians in caring for their patients. Each session provides new experiences and an opportunity to see the unexpected.
“The more complex cases are better for teaching,” says Dr. Butters who has taught four first year students over the past year and half. “I work with each student to identify which areas they are most interested in and as much as possible tie together the learning material covered in their lectures.”
The patients themselves play an invaluable role educating future doctors by sharing their stories and taking the time to allow students to learn from them. The number and types of patients for each teaching session are often structured to allow for more time for the student to ask questions and practice procedures. Students will see between two to three patients each teaching session which typically last three hours.
“Teaching is a lot of fun,” adds Butters. “It’s nice to meet young people who are proactive, highly functioning, and motivated to learn.”
More than 100 family physicians from Vernon to West Kelowna are involved with teaching first and second year SMP students. The physicians find it rewarding to have the students as part of their practice. The students gain first-hand clinical experience and a glimpse into the window of a future career in family medicine.