The Network of Rural Divisions enables physician leaders and executive directors from 20 rural Divisions of Family Practice in British Columbia (BC) to connect and engage in a safe space. Members discuss successes and challenges experienced in their communities, or by healthcare providers and the Divisions, as well as potential solutions to challenges. The Network provides a unique opportunity for members to learn from others’ diverse, but common, rural experiences, bridging multiple geographic regions and health authorities, and bringing rural Divisions together to create a common understanding.
“This group has helped to leverage collaboration and resources for meaningful improvement in the way health care services are delivered in rural communities; the ideas and supports provided are so valuable! Gratefully appreciated!”
Fostered an open, supportive space for Divisions to connect and propagate new ideas
The Network of Rural Divisions, which started in 2018, creates time and space for leaders, physicians, and Divisions to connect and share experiences, perspectives, and learnings in an open, safe environment. The Network meets twice a month, one of which includes the Physician Leads and Executive Directors from 20 Divisions across the province. The agenda is adapted based on emergent and urgent topics impacting rural communities and the providers that care for them. Monthly lunch and learns allow external partners and organizations to engage in discussion with Network members on specific topics (e.g., care pathways, service models, etc.). These connection points generate robust dialogue, allow for cross pollination, and help to strengthen relationships, creating a space that is open, dialogical and fun.
In previous years, the network and its meetings have been described as a ‘life raft’, to keep the divisions afloat in stormy times. However, it has seemingly turned into a life raft and concurrent party boat, where people come to enjoy, share, connect and propagate new and evolving ideas in rural family practice.
Hosted a two-day gathering for the Divisions of Family Practice
In June 2022, the 20 Divisions of Family Practice that make up the Network of Rural Divisions (supported by RCCbc) were invited to come together to connect, share learnings and discuss opportunities to support providers and patients with a goal of thriving in rural and remote British Columbia. The co-chairs of the GP Services Committee (GPSC) and Joint Standing Committee (JSC), along with leadership from Doctors of BC, were also invited to participate in a session to hear from rural Divisions across BC. The conversation evolved over two days to explore opportunities to make rural family practice irresistible. Topics discussed included health human resources, supporting full-scope rural family practice, plus governance and collaboration.
This session and the summary created helped to inform Physician Master Agreement negotiations, the development of the Longitudinal Family Practice model of care, and the work of JSC and Family Practice Services Committee when it comes to rural family practice and collaboration. The gathering brought together people who hold the same values and are committed to rural family practice, at a time when there was great turmoil. It served as a place to connect, to understand, and to create relationships with partners, each other, and provide perspectives beyond the group.
Developed and strengthened relationships across British Columbia
Through their meetings, the Network of Rural Divisions supports the development and strengthening of relationships and trust that create ripples beyond just their own connections. These relationships weave into and through many Divisions, local, regional, and provincial tables across the province.
Making a Difference
Through connection, shared understanding and open dialogue, the Network continues to create a valuable space for rural practitioners to build relationships based on common experiences. “We talk about things that really matter”, said a Physician Lead from one of the rural Divisions.
While members are able to discuss challenges and find support during difficult periods, many also expressed how much they enjoy being a part of the Network. “This is my happy space meeting”, said another rural Division Physician Lead.
“The Network of Rural Divisions' monthly meeting is the best meeting I attend.”
“I so appreciate the passion for rural medicine, and it gives me hope for healthcare when so much of it seems 'hard' right now.”
“I have so valued the authenticity of this group. It's so impressive and I appreciate it so much.”
“We can say things and honor each other's experiences which is really valuable.”
Plans for the Future
The Network of Rural Divisions will continue to hold space virtually (bi-weekly) and in-person (annually) for Divisions to come together. There has been a clear ask/need to move from conversation to action, so the Network will be looking at opportunities to support side shoots for conversations around the shift in service/practice models (e.g. integration of team-based care). Doing this with the intent to keep the culture they have fostered and lean into collaborative spaces in a safe, fun and evolving environment.