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Nova Scotia Practice Ready Assessment Program offers an important pathway for recruitment of family doctors in rural Nova Scotia

Two men stand side-by-side, smiling at the camera. The man on the left is shorter and is wearing a white coat, the other is wearing a light grey dress shirt, brown belt, dark blue pants and has a stethoscope around his neck.

The Nova Scotia Practice Ready Assessment Program (NSPRAP) is an important initiative that is addressing the pressing need for qualified family physicians in the province. By integrating international medical graduates (IMGs) into the local healthcare system, NSPRAP not only enhances the medical workforce but also ensures that high standards of health care in our province is maintained.

Designed to introduce family doctors to underserviced Nova Scotia community practices, NSPRAP recruits international medical graduates who wish to practice family medicine in Nova Scotia. The purpose of the program is to ensure that international medical graduates who wish to practice family medicine in Nova Scotia possess the appropriate clinical skills and knowledge to provide quality patient care. Candidates of the program must complete two clinical field assessments with assessors who are experienced family physicians in Nova Scotia. The program can only be successful if it can recruit enough family doctors to perform the role as clinical field assessors.

Dr. Jose Jota and Dr. Brad MacDougall’s contributions to the program have significantly shaped its success in rural Nova Scotian communities. Since the inception of NSPRAP in 2009, Dr. Jota has been involved as an assessor for 11 candidates, while Dr. MacDougall has been involved with 15 candidates, often teaming up as the primary and secondary assessors for the same candidates.

Originally from the Philippines, Dr. Jose Jota pursued his medical education at the University of the East Ramon Magsaysay Memorial Medical Center College of Medicine in Quezon City. After completing his residency at the Michigan State University Family Practice Program from 1995 to 1998, he gained substantial experience as a family doctor in Flint, Michigan.

Dr. Jota relocated to Pictou County, Nova Scotia, seeking to experience the single-payer healthcare system. What was initially intended as a short stay has turned into a long and dedicated service to the people of Nova Scotia. Dr. Jota, along with his wife and four children, has made Nova Scotia their home. "I thought it was only going be for a couple of years, but I'm still here 15 years after," Dr. Jota remarked.

Dr. Jota recently retired from full-time clinic work at the Westville Clinic but still provides locum coverage at outpatient clinics across the province, offering his expertise in various communities such as Lunenburg, Bedford, Port Hawkesbury, and Spryfield. This role provides him the flexibility to choose his work schedule while staying engaged in patient care.

Dr. Brad MacDougall, a family physician in Pictou County and the MD Recruitment and Retention Lead for the Northern Zone, also plays a crucial role in NSPRAP. Originally from Antigonish, Nova Scotia, he attended medical school at Dalhousie University, graduating in 2009. He also completed his family medicine residency at Dalhousie University.

Dr. MacDougall sees multiple benefits to being an assessor. "It's very similar to having students and residents, but more hands-off. You’re assessing the candidates rather than teaching them," he noted. This role also helps improve clinic access as candidates’ book and see their own patients, thereby increasing patient flow. "It's rewarding to see the transition from an assessment candidate to a future colleague," Dr. MacDougall added.

NSPRAP has been a major benefit to rural medicine in Nova Scotia, particularly in areas like Pictou County. "Our number one recruitment tool over the last three years has been the practice-ready assessment program," Dr. MacDougall highlighted. The program not only brings in highly skilled physicians but also ensures they remain in the province, contributing to the local healthcare system.

Dr. Jota echoed these sentiments, having worked with several former candidates who are now practicing physicians. "It's amazing to see them doing well. Some of them are quite capable right from the outset," he said. Dr. Jota also finds fulfillment in his role as an assessor, likening it to his previous experience as part-time faculty with the family practice program in Michigan. "It's like giving back to healthcare," he said.

Both Dr. Jota and Dr. MacDougall encourage more family physicians to consider becoming assessors. "We hope that we could get more assessors here in the province," Dr. Jota stated.

He emphasized that the role is not burdensome and helps keep assessors up to date with the latest in healthcare. Dr. MacDougall agreed, noting the rewards of working with motivated and skilled candidates and the satisfaction of contributing to the healthcare community.

It is through the dedication of family physicians Dr. Jota and Dr. MacDougall, that NSPRAP program continues to thrive, bringing much-needed medical expertise to communities across the province. 

Photo of Dr. Jose Jota (left) and Dr. Brad MacDougall (right).

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