When people have a family physician they’re comfortable with, it makes their care a lot simpler. It reassures them, and gives them peace of mind.
Dr. John Keeler
Jack of all Trades; Quintessential rural doctor
Dr. John Keeler is the quintessential rural doctor: humble, hard-working, and connected to many aspects of medicine for the benefit of his patients.
He’s been a practicing family physician in Shelburne, NS, since 1985 when, as a newly-minted doctor fresh from Dalhousie Medical School, he joined a group of physicians at a clinic in this rural area of the province. Members of the group have come and gone during the past three decades, but Dr. Keeler has remained at the heart of the community through his clinic, his shifts in the local hospital’s emergency department, and his interest in mentoring and collaborating with other health-care practitioners.
Rural doctors are hubs of their communities. Patient care starts with them and, through their network of health practitioners, they can guide their patients through the health-care system.
Dr. Keeler’s focus on personal care highlights his rural style of practising medicine.
“Rural doctors are the true cradle-to-grave type of health practitioners. I explain this to my students. When you’ve been here for a while you see the community, and throughout your career you see people and communities grow,” he said.
Dr. Keeler helps his patients gain access to the treatment they need and the security of a family doctor in their corner.
“When people have a family physician they’re comfortable with, it makes their care a lot simpler. It reassures them, and gives them peace of mind,” he said.
“It’s rewarding to know that your patients are comfortable with your care; that you have a trusting relationship,” he added.
Dr. Keeler’s work is varied and complex as a mentor, collaborator, practitioner and patient advocate. At one point during his day, he may be in the emergency room quickly sorting out critical problems, and later on be in his office working with long-term chronic patients.
General practitioners like Dr. Keeler have a unique role in the health-care system – they’re leaders, supporters, collaborators, and networkers between patients and specialists and subspecialists.
Collaborative medicine is important for Dr. Keeler, who has been working with nurse practitioners for years so they can practice in the Shelburne area with his additional support by filling in when the scope of practice dictates a physician. In rural areas, physicians often collaborate their time, talent, and resources to keep the health-care system rolling and give patients the care they need.
Dr. Keeler also works with residents (doctors in training) and physicians transferring into the Nova Scotia health-care system through the Clinician Assessment for Practice Program (CAPP). It’s designed for international medical graduates who believe they’re ready to enter into family practice without additional residency training in Canada. His involvement with the CAPP has involved mentoring graduates from Sri Lanka, Russia, Bangladesh and beyond.
While it can be a challenge to recruit new doctors to the Shelburne area, Dr. Keeler said he sees great opportunities for those who make the move.
“I think it gives you a more well-rounded look at all of medicine, rather than just one style. For the true general practitioner, you’re a jack of all trades,” he said.