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Occupational therapist on board: The 2018 Cassiar travelling road show

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Group standing below a big wooden sign showing towns.

The health care travelling road show

What do you get when you give thirteen enthusiastic health care students a microphone, a PowerPoint slide, a table of equipment, and four secondary school gymnasiums full of students considering life after high school?

The answer’s easy – The healthcare travelling roadshow!

People looking out a bus window viewing bison.

On April 29th, 2018, thirteen students and two UNBC staff piled into a roomy, Northern Health Connections bus and headed from Prince George to Smithers. By May 5th, our crew had covered over 2400 kilometers, travelling through Smithers, Dease Lake, Watson Lake, and Fort Nelson, visiting four high schools along the way.

NH Connections bus on a mountain pass.

As a second-year occupational therapy student at UBC, I am well-versed in the shortage of not only occupational therapists (OTs) in Northern and rural communities, but all health care professionals. I’ve seen postings for long-empty positions in rural hospitals and community-based teams, and I’ve met hospital administrators waiting for qualified OT and other health professionals to hit send on an email with cover letter and resume attached.

Woman standing at a viewpoint with snow capped mountains in the distant and a valley below.

What does a day in the life of a health care professional look like?

The health care travelling roadshow is a grassroots initiative born of a firm belief in the proven concept: ‘train-and-remain’. If a student from a Northern, rural community, becomes a health care professional, that student is more likely to return to the North to practice than a student from a major urban centre. The question is – how do eligible ‘train-and-remain’ students learn of all the various, much-needed professions, such as OT?  Well, who better than current health care students to provide interactive demonstrations with equipment and tools, and to share with high schoolers all about the application process, why the career is exciting and rewarding, and what a day in the life of a health care professional looks like? An added bonus to all of this touring, is the health care students learn more about their future colleagues, increasing their capacity for interdisciplinary practice.

Woman standing at a display table.

I was honoured to share my passion and commitment to OT and challenge students to think of creative uses for adaptive equipment, to consider the amazing rehabilitative neuroplastic powers of the brain, and to engage in discussion about inclusion and even the social model of disability. I asked students if they had any plans for careers after high school, and I heard, “Well, I had thought about being a nurse, but this is pretty cool.” Another student replied, “I have so many ideas now!”

Thank you

Thank you to everyone who made this week possible; to the creative minds that saw a solution to workforce shortages and made it a reality, to the organizers of the Roadshow, to Northern Health Connections for the wonderful bus, and especially to the students at each high school who asked such thoughtful questions, and showed genuine care for both individual and community health! Thanks for the opportunity to showcase OT!!

The health care travelling roadshow was conceived as a grass roots initiative to address rural health care workforce shortages. It brings together a multidisciplinary group of health care students from post-secondary institutions around BC to showcase career opportunities to rural high school students. Since 2010, the roadshow has connected with more than 8500 students in 43 communities across the province. There are now two roadshows run each spring through the Northern Medical Program, as well as one through the Southern Medical Program (Kelowna).