Hearst ideal environment for Dr. Gauvin

Dr. Lianne Gauvin and husband, enjoy camping and fishing with sons.

For most professions, “opportunity” and “ability to diversify” usually mean moving to large urban centres. But for medical doctors, the opposite can be true. In fact, one of the things Dr. Lianne Gauvin likes about living in Hearst is that it provides variety.

“In an urban area, I think you’re more restricted in what you can do,” Gauvin said. “Working in a rural area, we can have a wider scope of practice if we choose. That appeals to me to have that freedom professionally.”

Gauvin has her own practice as part of the Nord-Aski Family Health Team and she also works in the Emergency Department at Hôpital Notre-Dame Hospital, follows patients admitted to the hospital, and assists in the operating room when needed. She also practises geriatrics and follows patients living in long-term care.

Hearst was an easy choice. She and her husband, Eric Sigouin, are from Hearst originally. Interestingly, they didn’t meet until Gauvin was taking pre-med at the University of Ottawa.

Moving back to the town was “always in the cards” she said, though the couple considered settling down elsewhere. They didn’t make a decision until she finished medical school and her residency at the Northern Ontario School of Medicine (NOSM).

“Both of us wanted to be close to our family. We wanted our children to grow up with that family sense as well,” the mother of two boys said.

Lifestyle played a large part in their decision. The family enjoys camping as well as fishing. Gauvin also jogs and enjoys kayaking.

“The river is just behind my house, so that is very accessible to me. You wouldn’t necessarily have that in an urban area.”

Equally important is the work environment. In smaller communities, it is easier to get to know everyone. “Working with my colleagues, it’s a very positive environment. We’re all supportive of each other.”

There are challenges to rural medicine, of course. Accessing specialist care for her clients or even professional consults for herself can be difficult. However, there are several programs facilitated by the Ontario Telemedicine Network (OTN) that are making it easier.

For example, the Virtual ICU program launched in 2014 by Health Sciences North in Sudbury has been a big help supporting emergency physicians and intensive care units across the region.

Another OTN initiative is the eConsult service which makes it easier for physicians to connect with specialists to ask questions in more than 27 areas of care.
eConsult formalizes the process, allowing physicians to get the specialist help they need faster – usually within 24 hours.

“Just as an example, I had a question about paediatric haematology the other day, and I was able to get an answer very quickly.”

OTN also helps her patients connect with specialists via videoconference, allowing them to stay at home rather than travel to appointments with specialists.
“If I want to send a patient to a specialist in Ottawa, that’s a 10-hour drive if your timing is good.”

Telemedicine is also helping education. Gauvin is an associate professor with NOSM. One program is called Virtual Academic Rounds (VAR) in which students across the region meet by videoconference for preceptor-guided group learning sessions. VAR allow for larger and more effective learning groups than would otherwise be possible.

There are other challenges that come with working in a smaller town, such as running into patients every day or covering for colleagues during vacation time and other situations.

“I am often on call and working on weekends, so it can be difficult to find that (work/life) balance,” she said. “During vacation time, I work more when my colleagues are away. But I get my turn.”

Overall though, the pros outweigh the cons. “I’ve always been passionate about medicine, so to have that wide scope of practice, I get to still see a lot of different areas in medicine, which I enjoy.”

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