Planning for Tomorrow, Today: Engaging Medical Students in Equitable Physician Workforce Policy

Student Researcher:
Finola Hackett & Yasamin Mahjoub

Supervisor / Principle Investigator:

MD Class of 2019


Physician workforce planning has long been discussed as a potential solution to inequities in health care access. In 2016, Alberta Health and the Alberta Medical Association formed a Physician Resource Planning Committee (PRPC) to address this. The University of Alberta Medical Students’ Association (U of A MSA) was granted a seat on PRPC. We seized this opportunity to give direct input to government, faculty, and physician leaders. Physicians-in-training offer a distinct perspective on future career goals and values. We solicited U of A medical students' feedback to bring to the policymaking table. By targeting students involved in relevant groups (e.g. Rural Medicine Interest Group) for one-on-one conversations, we learned that gathering feedback at subjects’ convenience gained richer perspectives than traditional passive approaches (e.g. town halls & online surveys). The snowball method of identifying subjects garnered further input through those identified by peers as having an interest. We sustained engagement of over 50 students through the year-long process. Our results show proximity to partner/family and flexible hours as the highest ranked factors for students. The challenge of equitable physician resource policy can be aided by engaging trainees. Recognizing that students lack direct policy experience, we focused on what we can uniquely offer: career planning perspectives and decision making factors. We gathered valuable input by approaching involved students, asking them to identify others, and using multiple consultation methods. This was well received by the PRPC, and the MSA is well placed to continue representing trainees in the process.