Small-town doc wears many hats
By Danielle Milley, OMA Public Affairs
It is challenging enough being a doctor, but when you’re in a small town those challenges can also include having to send your patients 300 kilometres for a specialist referral or doing your grocery shopping without making a diagnosis.
For Dr. Richard Claveau, practicing in a town of 5,000 may have its challenges, but it also means he has greater diversity in his day and gets to have a wider scope of practice than some of his big city colleagues. He would not trade working in a small town.
“Working in a larger centre I wouldn’t be able to do as much as I do,” he says
Dr. Claveau works in Hearst, which 250 km northwest of Timmins. The largely francophone community is home to eight family doctors, who work with Dr. Claveau in the Family Health Team; and a small community hospital, where he is currently the chief of staff.
All of the doctors wear multiple hats – Dr. Claveau does obstetrics and he is also the only doctor in town who does caesarean sections, which means he’s always on call (unless a locum has been brought in). His colleagues combine family medicine with anesthesiology or endoscopy.
“We all sub-specialized,” he says. “You learn to be resourceful working here.”
Dr. Claveau is used to the northern way of life. He grew up in Cochrane and went to university at Laurentian in Sudbury before heading to Ottawa for medical school. He completed his family medicine residency in Sudbury before opening his practice in Hearst in 2000. He always wanted to work in the medical field and was considering obstetrics but wanted to care for the babies after birth so family medicine with a subspecialty in obstetrics is where he ended up.
“I like being the guy who does a bit of everything from complete care to office work to hospital work,” he says.
Dr. Claveau is also the local liaison for the Northern Ontario School of Medicine.
“It keeps me on my toes,” he says of working with medical students and residents.
Training to be a northern doctor is a special skill – Dr. Claveau says he and his patients have to think carefully about sending a patient three or six hours to see a specialist; telemedicine is a big part of providing high quality patient care.
For him, the work can be difficult on his family but he gets immense satisfaction from the care he is able to provide to his patients.
“The satisfaction of actually helping patients and changing someone’s well being, their health – being able to make a difference in their lives is very rewarding,” he says.
This article originally appeared in our monthly e-newsletter, Spotlight on Health.
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