Promising Practices for Retaining the Healthcare Workforce in Northern, Rural and Remote Communities

What are we learning from emerging practices in northern, rural and remote communities about how to support and retain the health workforce?

Healthcare Excellence Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI), has identified several promising practices and synthesized them into summaries. These short summaries were co-developed with healthcare providers and organizations to help raise the profile of promising practices and generate discussion about how similar approaches could be adapted and applied elsewhere. The summaries offer details about:

  • How communities are implementing promising practices to increase retention of their healthcare workforce
  • Key success factors for embedding community, staff and Indigenous partnerships into retention approaches
  • Practices that promote improved work-life balance and wellness
  • Strategies that healthcare leaders are using to engage staff to develop solutions

Promising practice summaries

The Triad Leadership Model (Island Health, British Columbia)

A key strategy in the implementation of the triad leadership model includes an Indigenous health leader, an operational lead and a medical team lead who share responsibility and accountability to plan and oversee operations, strategy and outcomes in partnership with local communities and providers.

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Part-Time Permanent Physicians (Ongomiizwin Health Services, serving Northern Manitoba and the Kivalliq, Qikiqtani and Kitikmeot regions of Nunavut)

A key strategy to promote retention within Ongomiizwin Health Services has been to recruit and retain physicians in permanent part-time positions.

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Creating a Meaningful Work-Life Balance for Staff (Churchill Health Centre, Northern Manitoba)

Over the past four years, a key strategy to promote retention of nursing staff at Churchill Health Centre in northern Manitoba has been to create a meaningful work-life balance.

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Virtual Triage: An Approach to Supporting On-Call Community Health Nurses (Nunavut)

The virtual triage program was designed to give respite for on-call community health nurses who provide 24/7 access to care in community health centres.

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Why this work matters

There is a pressing need to support the healthcare workforce to strengthen and restore high-quality, safe care for everyone in Canada. Providers who work in northern, rural and remote communities have unique challenges and associated support needs related to factors such as fewer onsite team members; geographic remoteness and associated weather and travel challenges; access to fewer providers, specialists and facilities, and to less equipment; a broader scope of practice compared with their urban counterparts; and a patient population that is — on average — more complex compared with patient populations in urban centres.