Relocating to a new country and obtaining a license to practice medicine is a challenge for many international physicians. For Dr. Alana Soares, a new clinical assistant role allows her to continue her practice while supporting the internal medicine team at Cape Breton Regional.
Dr. Soares studied medicine and completed her residency in internal medicine and gastroenterology at Universidad Federal de Bahia, in Salvador, Brazil. When she and her family relocated to Sydney, the opportunity to work as a clinical assistant was the perfect avenue to continue working in medicine and balance a busy and rewarding family life.
“We came to Canada in June 2022 and moved to Sydney that August. Sydney is a small town and I like it. We used to live in a city with three million people – it’s another world but it’s been great.”
Though she has many years of experience in internal medicine and gastroenterology, Dr. Soares welcomes the unique pace and challenges that come as a clinical assistant. The clinical assistant program helps bridge physicians who have trained and worked in other jurisdictions who may not be eligible for full licensure, but recognizes that they have areas of expertise and skill sets that can be utilized to support patient care.
“At this time, this role is perfect as I’m still learning the system and how things work at the hospital. It was good to follow the doctors and learn how things work because the system of treating patients is the same but how things work in each hospital is different,” said Dr. Soares.
Dr. Paul Morrison, head of internal medicine for Eastern Zone, and Dr. Soares’ supervisor said, “The great thing is that Alana is a trained gastroenterologist and was also doing a lot of inpatient general medicine in Brazil. Alana has a very versatile skillset that we can really utilize to bridge gaps in our coverage.”
As with many areas around the province, there have been ongoing challenges with recruitment, retention, and addressing care and supports for patients and their families. With smaller divisions it becomes challenging to maintain service levels. As a clinical assistant, Dr. Soares is helping expand internal medicine service. The opportunities for working in clinics in her home discipline of gastroenterology are endless as she continues in this role.
Dr. Morrison said, “It is beneficial to have a vigorous general internal medicine group because they are really the Swiss Army knife of our discipline - they can do everything. Alana really blends in nicely with that because she has a broad skillset and excellent experience. This will now help to service our community.”
Clinical assistants’ credentials are assessed and approved, and then they are licensed through the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia (College) and have defined activities that clinical assistants can engage. The College defines the scope of practice to “where [clinical assistants] are never the most responsible physician (MRP) but may engage in designated aspects of the practice of medicine in the role of a physician extender.”