Digby-based research helps shed light on patient-centred care

Joel Arsenault and Dr. Jennifer Chang discuss Joel’s research work at the Digby & Area Health Services Centre.
Joel Arsenault and Dr. Jennifer Chang discuss Joel’s research work at the Digby & Area Health Services Centre.

He may be back in school in Quebec, but medical student Joel Arsenault won’t leave his summer job in Digby far behind.

Originally from PEI, Joel studied at Université Sainte-Anne and is entering his second year of medical school at the University of Sherbrooke. He spent this summer with the collaborative team at the Digby and Area Health Services Centre working on a research project that explored patient-centred care for patients with complex conditions.

Even though summer is over, Joel will continue to study the data he helped produce and work towards translating the numbers and statistics into information health care providers can use in Digby, and other areas. Being based at the Digby and Area Health Services Centre gave Joel the opportunity to spend time with patients and health care providers.

“It has taught me many things on the medical side, but also valuable lessons on how the patients perceive the care they’re getting,” said Joel. “This summer job also allowed me to get a unique perspective of the advantages and difficulties of a rural practice.”

He believes rural communities like Digby offer a unique work and living experience. “The patients are friendly and appreciative of the care they are getting,” Joel said. “In Digby, the new providers get some help to find a good place to stay and they are also offered a free membership to the Digby Pines Golf Resort. One of the things that would bring me back to Digby is that it has the small town feel, unlike working in a city. I have spent most of my free time this summer outdoors enjoying the festivals, the hiking trails, the water activities or even just the downtown.”

Through his research, Joel was interested to learn that many people don’t know about the community programs and resources that are already available. “I have done a few surveys and I got to see that most patients don’t know all the options that are out there to help them. Even the providers weren’t aware of all the community resources Digby has to offer.”

Joel feels that getting the message out about the many programs and services that already exist in the area would be a step in improving the overall health of the population, and help make health care more accessible.

For Joel, the research project is not just about numbers, statistics, data and points on a graph. Instead, this has been about working closely with patients and providers to help find real, workable solutions to improve services.

“Our research work doesn’t simply collect the data involving the challenges, opportunities and innovation, we are actively involved in trying to make improvements based on this data,” said Joel. “Our hope is that results from this research will be valuable resources for all other rural clinics that are looking to improve the care they offer. A great example of this are the Group Medical Visits we are working to implement by working very closely with the Digby team.”