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Gateway CERH presents S.H.A.R.P. at Brock University

Recruitment and retention of healthcare workers in rural and remote locations can be challenging. The struggle of maintaining a strong healthcare workforce is an important issue to address as areas with deserts of care can negatively impact community health. Furthermore, rural southwestern Ontario population is older and aging, at the forefront of changing demographics. This change results in a greater demand for healthcare resources. One predominant strategy to redress this issue is to incentivize urban or newcomer healthcare providers to move to rural locations through financial incentives and/or conditional residency requirements. This approach has been met with mixed success. 

In contrast to this approach, Gateway Centre of Excellence in Rural Health (CERH) has cultivated a “grow-our-own” strategy. This strategy includes recognizing and appreciating the current workforce, building a resilient workforce, and appealing to and creating opportunities for young persons within our community to be educated in healthcare and return to work in rural areas.  

Presentation at Brock University

On March 22, 2024, Gateway CERH sought to share the "grow-our-own" strategy and burgeoning research at the conference at Brock University entitled "Liminal Spaces: Two Days of Rural Canada". Gateway CERH Research Assistant, Sage Milne (BA), was given the opportunity to do a twenty-minute presentation on the topic followed by a panel discussion. The discussion of the session was centred around the "Addressing the Challenges of Healthcare in Rural Setting". Gateway CERH's strategy is called the Skilled Healthcare Attraction and Retention Program (S.H.A.R.P.).

Panel discussion on "Addressing the Challenges of Healthcare in Rural Setting".

Milne presented both historical, current and burgeoning interventions to recruit and retain a rural healthcare workforce. Some of the current activities include the Discovery Healthcare Camp, the remarkable healthcare worker recognition event, a needs assessment and mentoring of rural students. Learn more about the overall SHARP Project here: 

More about the S.H.A.R.P Strategy

Discovery Healthcare Camp, 2023

To inspire rural youth is an important component of building the future of the rural healthcare workforce. The Discovery Healthcare Camp is a week-long summer camp for rural high school students. This year the camp will take place from July 8th-12th, 2024. Learn more and register for the camp: 


Watch a video about the camp in 2023:


In September of 2023, Gateway CERH recognized healthcare workers that have been incredible and have gone beyond the call of duty in their community. Learn more about the event here: 


In the summer of 2023, Gateway CERH conducted a needs assessment survey, distributed by former Gateway CERH Research Assistant, Jordan Connolly. The survey served to get a breadth of understanding of the shortage of healthcare workers in Huron County. It had a 74% response rate and was sent to administrators of healthcare organizations including hospitals, clinics and long-term care facilities. Survey results showed that Huron County had a total shortage of about 223 healthcare workers.  The top three positions in that shortage included Personal Support Workers (PSWs), Registered Nurses (RNs) and Registered Practical Nurses (RPNs).  


Gateway CERH provides mentorship and rural research opportunities to rural youth. These opportunities include co-op placements at both the high school level and master's level. Gateway CERH also employs students, such as Connolly, to conduct and present research, write grants, and work with the local community to build healthy communities. The ability to present at conferences is one such opportunity that Gateway CERH provides for the research assistants. Student mentorship is provided by board members and academics who act as research chairs. 

Gateway CERH Research Assistants atDHC, 2023 & Board Member, Michele Melady-Young

Gateway CERH will be welcoming new students this summer. The SHARP project will continue to be a way in which Gateway CERH #growourown healthcare workforce. Gateway CERH’s aim is to serve as an example to other communities and help innovate strategies to build rural healthcare. 

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