FOLLOW TINA AND HER TEAM AS THEY work to CRAFT THE FRAMEWORK FOR A SUSTAINABLE POPULATION GROWTH STRATEGY IN LUNENBURG COUNTY
NOW LUNENBURG: What is the Quality of Life Index and why should you care if it shows up in your mailbox?
When NOW Lunenburg County received a request to be involved in the Quality of Life Index, a project initiated by Engage Nova Scotia, we were initially skeptical. It’s not the first time we have been asked to endorse or support a project. And we are not big fans of reports, since many of them have done little more than sit on a shelf collecting dust. Our province does not need another costly report or study to tell us what we already know.
However, this survey, we quickly understood, is a little bit different.
At the initial meeting, we learned that the Quality of Life Index might help people decide where they may live. Since we’ve spent the last two years actively inviting people to create a life they love in Lunenburg County, it made perfect sense for us to be involved. But we are fully aware that not everyone in our community has a life they love. We have some barriers that have made it challenging for everyone to enjoy a high quality of life. Lunenburg County is not immune to issues such as poverty, racism, we have a doctor shortage, we have food, housing and internet insecurity.
The Quality of Life Index is a survey that will be mailed to 80,000 Nova Scotians. It’s long. It asks over 180 questions. Whoever receives it and fills it out is making a 30-minute time commitment. But it’s an investment of time we need you to make, and this is why:
The Quality of Life Index will go ahead whether we endorsed it or not. The results will be released whether you toss it in the trash or take the time to fill it out. This survey is also an opportunity. We’re asking you to take advantage of this opportunity to make Lunenburg County’s quality of life known; whatever that means to you, good or bad.
If you receive it, consider yourself lucky. I know, you might not feel very lucky to receive a survey with over 180 questions, but you have a unique opportunity to share your voice; an opportunity that most of your neighbours won't have.
NOW Lunenburg County is sitting at the table with other leaders in our community, a group of about a dozen. When Engage Nova Scotia, who’s doing the survey, introduced the project to us, they were met with a borage of questions we posed on your behalf: What is going to happen with the results of this survey? Will the results help influence positive change? How can we be certain that the most vulnerable citizens, our youth and the elderly will have their voices heard? We explained that our reservations are likely the same as the community will have. Their answers left me feeling hopeful. If you receive the survey, and don’t do it, either in protest, apathy or just because you don’t want to do it, then we have squandered an opportunity to have our opinion heard. What results from the Quality of Life Index is another matter, and while those results might sit on a shelf I do not believe anyone wants that to happen, least of all us at NOW Lunenburg County.
I’m calling in a favour from you, the community who I love so much, asking you to check your mailbox carefully in late April and early May. When you sift through the litany of bills and junk mail, if you happen to stumble upon an envelope that asks you to take the Quality of Life Index survey, please fill it out. I’m encouraging you to follow the directions, perk a cup of tea or something a little stronger, take some time, clear your mind and complete it fully and honestly, on behalf of all of us.
For your effort, Now Lunenburg County will make a personal commitment to see that your time and your tea is not wasted. Thank you for taking the time to help with this research project and we promise the results won’t gather dust on our shelf — we will use this data to help inform our work.
After spending three days pitching Lunenburg County at the Rural and Remote Medicine Conference in Halifax, along-side every province and many Canadian communities also promoting the lifestyle they offer, I can now answer the question, “Does marketing your community really attract people to your community?” With a single-word: potentially.
Why potentially and not definitely? Well, after walking by booth after booth designed to grab my attention, there were only a few that actually drew me in. Images of beautiful B.C. were hard to ignore with their many lakes, mountains, hiking and surfing. Nunavut also brought their A-game with a booth that featured an area to host doctors in meaningful conversations about their community. The Yukon was by far the winner — their recruitment pitch so strong that I came right home and Googled airfare as I considered a visit. Just goes to show that not all recruitment is created equal. Let me explain:
Of the booths who were there, I’d say a quarter of them focused on the hospitals and what sets them apart from the rest. Interesting approach. The problem with that as I saw it, was that every hospital seemed to offer something similar. There were pictures of medical professionals working with state-of-the-art equipment in modern hospitals; something that I’m certain is imperative for anyone who takes pride in their work in the medical field. I couldn’t distinguish one hospital from the another. In fact, I couldn’t even tell you what province or what community the hospital was in.
Another issue is that at this event, there were lots of families. Spouses and children were checking out these booths exploring what communities they might like to call home. A few doctors could be heard saying, “it’s not really about me, but about where they want to go,” pointing to their family. I also couldn’t distinguish one city skyline from the next.
First impressions matter, so while marketing your community might ‘potentially’ work to attract people to your community, creatively marketing it works even better!
The Yukon understands this. Their imagery drew me in, but it was the material that held my attention. They created innovative giveaways, items such as puzzles to promote mental health and lifestyle condoms to promote sexual health. This bold marketing not only made me chuckle but made me ask questions about the other, healthy lifestyle initiatives in their community, which was exactly what they wanted.
As for our booth, we had images of beaches, recreation, and other aspects of the lifestyle in Lunenburg County. Many who visited us already knew about us - they’d either visited us before of heard about our community. We handed out NOW Lunenburg County Magazines, shared some of our real estate listings and held a draw to host a doctor and their family to give them a taste of what we have to offer. I’ve followed up with every doctor who filled out a ballot for our draw with an invitation to consider Lunenburg County as a place to live and work.
But we can do better. We must do better. And we have lots more work to do. These medical conferences are expensive to attend so we need to make them work. We are so grateful to the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore for covering the registration fee for our booth- it’s a partnership that works well. What we need now, before our next event, is a creative and well-thought-out booth that will attract doctors and their families. While we have an abundance of creativity, we don’t have the funding to support it.
If your group, company, or organization believes that we can and must do more to attract doctors to our community, NOW Lunenburg County can use your financial support. If you can help, please reach out to me, Tina Hennigar, at 902-523-5725 or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or go to nowlunenburgcounty.com to learn more about our work.
Picture it: more than 800 doctors, medical students and their families at a Rural and Remote Medicine Conference. While Med students are spending most of their time in sessions, it’s between those sessions, when communities from all across the country are vying for their attention — hoping for an opportunity to share what makes their community worthy of consideration.
This is exactly what happened last week at the new convention centre in Halifax. All provinces and territories were there. Nova Scotia had a strong presence. Many communities from all across the province were there — each with a booth trying to make an impression, including me, representing Lunenburg County. Nova Scotia’s communities had an entire wall with lots of opportunities to make our pitch. Why is NOW Lunenburg County recruiting doctors, you might ask? Isn’t the Nova Scotia Health Authority (NSHA) doing that? Aren't our taxes taking care of that for us?
The answer is yes, they are, but as was laid out in the Ivany Report, they can’t do it alone. We can't rely solely on government to fix this problem. Every community is looking for doctors and like all communities across the province up their doctor recruitment game. We must do the same. We know that we can't increase our population by inviting people to our community if we're not also recruiting doctors. NOW Lunenburg County is focusing on attracting doctors to our community, not because NSHA isn’t going it, but because, as we've seen, they can’t do it alone.
I was able to meet and chat with more than doctors. Much of the real learning for NOW Lunenburg County happened as I got to chat with other communities such as Port Hawkesbury, Pictou County, Neil's Harbour and Guysborough County, to name a few. It was so inspiring to learn how they all got there and what their communities are doing to attract doctors. It’s amazing how communities are stepping up and what they’re doing to address our doctor shortage. Work that’s sadly often overshadowed by what isn't happening. Please allow me to brag a bit and give you just a small sampling of the amazing work communities across our province are doing to help attract doctors to their communities:
Port Hawkesbury sent a town councilor and his wife to this conference. Both work full time, but these busy parents of young children are also community champions. Hearing them talk from the heart about their community made me want to visit.
Pictou County’s business community and Hospital Foundation partnered and hired the most incredible champion whose job is to attract doctors. She was assisted by different community members, including a local doctor.
Neil’s Harbour in Cape Breton was there handing out Cape Breton oatcakes that were lovingly made by members of the community. Talk about how to warm your heart!
Guysborough County has contracted someone similar to me. Their community actually came together and bought a home that they're allowing doctors to stay in because, in a province where doctors can basically go anywhere, you have to sweeten the pot.
And as for us, NOW Lunenburg County, we have been gifted an executive-style two-bedroom apartment that we too allow visiting doctors to stay in as they test-drive our community. We’ve had residents, locums and medical students stay with us for up to two weeks. We’ve delivered hot soup on chilly nights, we've hosted our locums for lobster dinner, taken them for drinks, and even arranged picnics on the beach and provided some doctors bikes to use to explore our trails. In fact, we offered every student who dropped by our booth a chance to win a Lunenburg County Experience- Accommodation and activities designed with their interests in mind!
Just like with everything we do, we take time to evaluate and see if our effort was well spent. We know our Cross-Canada Tour, for example, was successful because we have welcomed people here who were inspired to explore Lunenburg County as a possible new community after sitting in our Boler Camper and having a discussion with me about the opportunities that exist here.
So, will any of the doctors we met at the Rural and Remote Medicine conference be joining us to live and practice in Lunenburg County? I am confident that many of the doctors we met will be settling somewhere in Nova Scotia. And I feel even more confident that at least one will be joining us in Lunenburg County.
We spoke a lot about lifestyle and about practicing medicine and needing a change. Folks from further away were excited by our real estate prices and for the chance to live on or near the water. Our safe communities, the Lunenburg County Lifestyle Centre, the French School, and the Lunenburg Academy of Performing Arts all made people lean into the conversation about Lunenburg County, including our growing entrepreneurship community, our proximity to other parts of the province, to beaches, the airport, and the city. Different people are drawn to different things. It's important we find what speaks to each person and highlight that for them.
An event like this doesn't happen without partnerships, and NOW Lunenburg County has nurtured some pretty good ones. For this doctor attraction event, the Health Services Foundation of the South Shore paid the significant registration fee for our booth. Doctors Nova Scotia supported our doctors’ attendance and the Town of Mahone Bay helped us attend as well. We were also very lucky to have Health Services Foundation Development officer Alison Clements and Dr. Cathy Kelly attend to help us make our pitch through our many conversations.
Perhaps our most important partnership is that with NSHA, as we work with our recruiter to help give potential new recruits an experience they won’t soon forget.
And as always NOW Lunenburg County’s work wouldn’t be possible without the support of The Lunenburg County Community Fund and our donors who contribute to our work through the Community Foundation of Nova Scotia. If you would like to be involved in our efforts to attract doctors, from hosting medical students, contributing to the next conference or baking cookies, contact me at 902-523-5725 or email email@example.com.
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.