Division Collaboration

“One-for-all” approach leads to recruitment success on Vancouver Island

When it comes to the challenging task of attracting new doctors to a community, it’s easy to imagine the process turning competitive—especially in a region like Vancouver Island, where every community boasts unique natural beauty, family-friendly activities, and reasonable proximity to urban centres.

Rather than embracing competition, divisions on the island have taken a different approach—banding together to welcome physicians to their communities following a recruitment situation that occurred a number of years ago. A husband/wife physician team from the US travelled to Cowichan, thinking of opening a practice there. In the end, they found the community wasn’t a good fit for them, so they hopped on a plane and left. This unfortunate event spun into something positive: it started a conversation among island divisions about what could have happened if the couple had been able to visit more island communities on the same trip. That conversation evolved into the creation of the Vancouver Island Regional Recruitment and Retention Working Group.

“Our physician recruitment strategy was born from a collective will to improve how we welcome and support physicians interested in working on the Island.  We recognized that there was a potential for competition between communities, and yet we also knew that every community on the Island has a need for physicians and each had unique benefits to offer.”
–Dr Aaron Childs, Physician Lead, Vancouver Island Regional Recruitment and Retention Working Group


The original working group consisted of executive directors (EDs) from all Island Divisions: Victoria, South Island, Nanaimo, Campbell River & District, Oceanside, Comox Valley, Cowichan Valley, Port Alberni, Rural and Remote, and the regional health authority. It naturally evolved to become a group of recruitment coordinators. The division coordinators now meet regularly in Nanaimo to discuss island issues and share recruitment strategies. The EDs and coordinators have developed a trust relationship, and a commitment to showing GPs what all Vancouver Island communities have to offer. They have a “one for all and all for one” philosophy—setting competition aside and working for the collective good.

“We are working towards a common goal of assisting GPs as they explore location and practice options on Vancouver Island.”
-Valerie Nicol, ED, Cowichan Valley Division of Family Practice


Divisions work together to schedule welcome tours for recruits (referred to as “red carpet” experiences), but the activities they organize are individually tailored to highlight each community’s unique attributes. Based on geographical proximity, divisions will sometimes partner informally outside of the working group to enhance a recruit’s experience—Victoria and South Island; Comox and Campbell River; and Oceanside, Nanaimo, and Cowichan have all partnered to plan multi-community welcomes.

A team approach: Partner up, pool resources, and present the big picture
The working group’s team approach begins long before recruits arrive for their red carpet welcome. To attract doctors to the island, the group created a collaborative recruitment website, www.islanddocs.com, which they promoted nationally and internationally using Google AdWords campaigns. The group also works with their regional health authority to coordinate national advertising, and with Health Match BC for international advertising.

The group pools resources by attending recruitment conferences in partnership (rather than as solo divisions) and sharing leads. The Nanaimo, Victoria, and Campbell River & District Divisions recently attended the Family Medicine Forum in Montreal, representing the regional collaborative. One division recruited at the BC pavilion with Health Match BC, and the other two supported the regional collaborative at an alternate booth outside of the BC pavilion. The Divisions are undertaking a PDSA process to see if having a representative at the larger booth had more impact than having reps at an individual booth.

At recruitment events and forums that are attended by only one division from the group, regional marketing materials are always front and centre. Attendees are supported by their individual divisions but present the bigger picture on behalf of all island communities.

“A major success of the group has been to share recruitment leads between divisions and communities – bringing physicians and families to Vancouver Island and helping them find the best fit. This supports long-term retention.”
–Alisa Harrison, ED, Victoria Division of Family Practice


Health authority partnership: A foundation for success
The divisions’ relationship with Island Health is pivotal to the success of the group. The health authority is represented at working group meetings and supports all international recruitment processes including licensing, liaising with Health Match BC, and formalizing letters of offer from clinics. The health authority is often the first to know when a potential recruit is going to be on the island and thus supports both the facilitation of the red carpet itinerary and the financial compensation process for the touring physician.

The working group, now in its second year, started out as a one-year demonstration project with Innovation Funding from the GPSC for regional collaboration. The group has since received one-time funding from the GPSC Recruitment & Retention Steering Committee to support and leverage work that has the potential to inform similar efforts across the province.

The working group developed the Vancouver Island Regional Recruitment and Retention Strategy— a resource for other divisions who may be considering a collaborative approach to recruitment​—and ​plan to continue working together to recruit new physicians to Vancouver Island from all over the world.

“Collaboration over competition is a way of recruiting for us now ... the greater good is equally as important as the individual wins. “
 –Leslie Keenan, ED, Nanaimo Division of Family Practice.

“The funding support from the GPSC and the commitment from all the Island divisions has created a culture that will benefit all of us in a sustainable way for years to come. A true regional Divisions of Family Practice success story.
–Dr Aaron Childs, Physician Lead, Vancouver Island Regional Recruitment and Retention Working Group


Read about the working group's recruitment success.