As Dr. Erin FitzPatrick sits talking about her plan to practice family medicine in rural Newfoundland and Labrador, there’s a knock on the door of her home in Burin.
It’s a neighbour with some halibut who has heard congratulations are in order.
That’s not something you’d likely see in a big city, she points out, returning to her dining table gleefully.
For the past year, the 30-year-old Marystown native has been fulfilling a family medicine residency in Burin.
Recently, she passed the College of Family Physicians of Canada’s certification exam, paving the way for her to open her own practice.
“I feel like ever since I started (the residency in Burin) there’s been whispers or rumours about me coming back, and they’re like, ‘Oh, when are you starting?’” she laughs.
Well, it’s official. FitzPatrick will be opening a family practice in Burin on July 29.
“It’s nice to come home,” the 2007 graduate of Marystown Central High School says.
FitzPatrick says she always knew she wanted to be a doctor.
After graduating high school, she started an undergraduate degree in biochemistry at Memorial University in St. John’s. It wasn’t for her. The courses a friend was taking in the nursing program intrigued her, though, so she decided to make the switch, successfully completing the four-year degree.
Practicing medicine was still what she wanted to do, however. After passing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), she enrolled in Memorial’s Faculty of Medicine in 2013.
FitzPatrick says people who study medicine come from diverse academic backgrounds, nursing being one of them. About 10 per cent of her class of 80 took that route, she says. She enjoyed the field and says it helped her make up her mind about pursuing medicine and also made her a better doctor.
“It was like, if I didn’t like nursing, then I probably shouldn’t go into medicine,” she says.
The need for family doctors locally is one FitzPatrick has heard quite a bit.
She’s excited to get started with her practice.
“It’s intimidating, but in a good way. I always joke that I was a professional student. I’ve been in school for a really long time, so it’s nice to be able to get out now and put everything I studied into practice and to finally, I guess, be your own boss,” she says.
Living in rural Newfoundland and Labrador means less anonymity than larger centres, which can have its drawbacks, she says, but that there is also plenty of upside, unexpected fish deliveries just one of them.
“Family medicine is very much about the continuity of care and really engaging all your patients on a level that most specialists never do, and that’s why I gravitated towards family." – Dr. FitzPatrick
The experiences of her residency for the past year have illustrated the positives.
There’s something really nice about being part of the community where she grew up again and helping provide care for people she knows, FitzPatrick says.
“Family medicine is very much about the continuity of care and really engaging all your patients on a level that most specialists never do, and that’s why I gravitated towards family,” she says.
“Coming home and being a family doctor at home adds a new layer to it (in that) it’s just that more rewarding because you know the people on a personal level and you can better see the fruits of your labour, like how you helped somebody, what it really means to them, so that’s really good.”
Family practice details
Dr. Erin FitzPatrick is opening a new family practice in Burin on July 29.
Though they will have different patients, Fitzpatrick’s clinic will be located in the same area of the Burin Pharmacy building as Dr. Paula Slaney and they will share a receptionist.
People can apply to become a patient with Fitzpatrick either in person or online, which is the preferred method. Prospective patients will be asked to agree to the clinic’s policies and provide their name, phone number and email.
As there is availability, people will be contacted about joining her list of patients.
More information, including where to apply online, can be found on Fitzpatrick’s family practice Facebook page at facebook.com/fitzpatrickfamilypractice/.