Top News

New family practice network for rural areas in eastern NL hopes to address issues like doctor burnout

The RE-Boot family practice network board is made up of, from left, Drs. Erin Fitzpatrick, Sarah Small, David Kwinter, Jackie Elliott, Megan Hayes and Annabeth Loveys. Drs. Gordon Stockwell and Chris Peddle are also members of the board. CONTRIBUTED
The RE-Boot family practice network board is made up of, from left, Drs. Erin Fitzpatrick, Sarah Small, David Kwinter, Jackie Elliott, Megan Hayes and Annabeth Loveys. Drs. Gordon Stockwell and Chris Peddle are also members of the board. CONTRIBUTED
MARYSTOWN, N.L. —

Physicians need a sympathetic ear from time to time, too, says Dr. Jackie Elliott.

In rural areas, isolation from fellow doctors can be a significant contributing factor to burnout, the chair of the recently incorporated RE-Boot family practice network (FPN) told SaltWire Network on Wednesday, Jan. 22.

“When you’re working and you find yourself struggling because there’s such a great patient need and a pressure to fix everything, sometimes it can get you down, because you don’t have the power that some people would like you to have, I guess,” she says.

Sometimes it can get you down, because you don’t have the power that some people would like you to have.

“I always say to my patients, there’s no magic. It’s hard work and there’s no magic and everything takes time, and working in a system where you have these delays, that’s probably one of the biggest frustrations for patients and for professionals.”

Having a sounding board, someone who can relate to your issues and concerns, definitely helps, says Elliott. She opened a practice in Port Blandford, N.L., in 2015 and works on her own in the tiny community of approximately 500 residents.

Newest FPN

That’s where RE-Boot comes in.

With its creation last fall, Re-Boot became the fourth FPN in the province. Non-profit and physician-led, they are a joint initiative of the provincial government and the Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association (NLMA).

The RE-Boot area encompasses the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas, the Clarenville area, Conception Bay North and Trinity North.

Doctors are signing up to get involved, she says.

We want to work together so that we can change things and make things better for the people who are practising.

“There’s a lot of uptake with it and there’s a lot of people who are enthusiastic about it, and even people who have been in practice for a while are sort of getting a little bit of renewed energy from it because they see that this is something that can help make life better for patients and doctors,” Elliott said.

The RE-Boot FPN will bring physicians in the area together on a regular basis to talk and problem-solve.

“I think part of the burnout, too, is that feeling that you’re up against a wall and you can’t change things. We want to work together so that we can change things and make things better for the people who are practising,” Elliott said.

Finding efficiencies

Aside from connecting doctors, Elliott said the FPN will look at ways physicians can make their practices more efficient, cutting down on paperwork and other distractions, so there’s more time to focus on the patients.

She cited the creation of regularly updated lists of current specialists and resources in the various areas, which can change quickly, as one example. Such lists will help doctors better direct their patients for referrals, she said.

A single doctor doesn’t have a lot of pull but doctors, when they group together, can actively work together to make things better.

“When I graduated from medical school, I kind of knew the lay of the land. I knew who was the cardiologist or I knew who was the internist or I knew who was the surgeon, but some of those have retired and other ones have come in,” Elliott said.

The FPN also means power in numbers.

“A single doctor doesn’t have a lot of pull but doctors, when they group together, can actively work together to make things better,” she says.

Elliott firmly believes family practice networks are a positive addition to healthcare in the province.

“We have a tendency to form groups and committees and things, and we’ve seen this over the years through all types of organizations and the government included, that you tend to put things together and then you talk about what you’re going to do and never really do anything,” she says.

With RE-Boot, that’s a trend Elliott says she hopes to break.


Family practice networks in N.L.

According to the family practice renewal program website (familypracticerenewalnl.ca), a family practice network is a means “through which a physician group can address common practice and patient needs, have a collective voice on issues facing family practice, and address local population health needs,” in co-ordination with a regional health authority.

In addition to RE-Boot, there are three other FPNs in Newfoundland and Labrador – Endeavor in St. John’s, Shalloway in the central region and Long Range on the west coast.
The website says FPNs benefit patients through the groups and regional health authorities working together to “address common health care goals and gaps in local communities, with the goal to contribute to improved population health outcomes.” 


About the RE-Boot FPN

The RE-Boot family practice network is comprised of the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas, the Clarenville area, Conception Bay North and Trinity North. 

“We became RE-Boot because we are rural eastern and we have the ‘Boot’, which is the Burin Peninsula,” Dr. Jackie Elliott, chair of the organization’s board, said of the clever name.

Drs. Erin Fitzpatrick and David Kwinters, both Marystown-Burin area physicians, sit on the RE-Boot board, which also features representation from throughout the region. 

Other members are Drs. Sarah Small and Megan Hayes, both vice chairs, treasurer Dr. Anna Beth Loveys, and Drs. Gordon Stockwell and Chris Peddle. 

RE-Boot is the most recently formed of four FPNs in the province, and as such is at an advantage, Elliott says.

“We’ve got the benefit of learning from them, so we’ve been able to incorporate some of the things they have done like developing their terms of reference and our rules that we’re going to abide by,” she says.

We became RE-Boot because we are rural eastern and we have the ‘Boot’, which is the Burin Peninsula.

“We’re still in the midst of getting an executive director to be part of this, and that’s somebody who will be dedicated to assist in this.”The RE-Boot family practice network is comprised of the Burin and Bonavista peninsulas, the Clarenville area, Conception Bay North and Trinity North. 

“We became RE-Boot because we are rural eastern and we have the ‘Boot’, which is the Burin Peninsula,” Dr. Jackie Elliott, chair of the organization’s board, said of the clever name.

Drs. Erin Fitzpatrick and David Kwinters, both Marystown-Burin area physicians, sit on the RE-Boot board, which also features representation from throughout the region. 

Other members are Drs. Sarah Small and Megan Hayes, both vice chairs, treasurer Dr. Anna Beth Loveys, and Drs. Gordon Stockwell and Chris Peddle. 

RE-Boot is the most recently formed of four FPNs in the province, and as such is at an advantage, Elliott says.

“We’ve got the benefit of learning from them, so we’ve been able to incorporate some of the things they have done like developing their terms of reference and our rules that we’re going to abide by,” she says.

“We’re still in the midst of getting an executive director to be part of this, and that’s somebody who will be dedicated to assist in this.”

paul.herridge@southerngazette.ca


Related

Western Newfoundland family doctors working together to improve patient care

Recent Stories