March 17, 2011
Since November, a special clinic has helped meet the health care demands of young people in Whitecourt -- a rural Alberta town whose industries draw workers from a wide region, and whose population of 9,000 has an average age of just 27. Providing access to STD screenings, birth control, and other services, the clinic offers a comfortable setting for people ages 13-25 who might not otherwise visit a family physician. Dr. Tahmeena Ali recruited two third-year medical students to help run the clinic every Tuesday evening.
"We're just trying to do small things that make the environment a little more youth-friendly. It's kind of a smaller, more select group of patients so that they are not in the same waiting room as their teacher or their mom's best friend," said Samantha Stasiuk, a University of Alberta medical student who moved to Whitecourt as part of a rural-practice outreach. Stasiuk and Cam Sklar work under the close supervision of Ali.
Last fall, the medical students met with local high schoolers to determine what young people do not like about the regular drop-in clinic. Their complaints included the nearly two-hour wait times, having to say the medical problem out loud at the main check-in, and the country music playing in the waiting room.
Wait times at the regular drop-in clinic are a problem, but Ali said the youth clinic is not designed to alleviate this concern. "We don't have the manpower, but this is a small, doable project I thought was sustainable," she said. "It's not meant to be a high-volume clinic."
Whitecourt's youth clinic is not Canada's first: Sklar's research identified four to six that have opened in the past couple of years.
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