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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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As the Population Growth Co-ordinator for NOW Lunenburg County, I typically receive one of three responses when I meet people - they either say, “You are everywhere, presenting to groups, touring doctors around, promoting the area and helping new residents land here softly.” Or they say, “Yeah, I heard of you. What exactly do you do again?” And the final of the three possible responses is, “I’ve never heard of NOW Lunenburg County.”
Over the next eight weeks I hope you'll join me as I explain what NOW Lunenburg County is, what we do, why we do it, and how you can help. Once you learn what we’re doing, you just may want to roll up your sleeves and join in, because what we do involves you.
'Nova Scotia is staring into an abyss that will lead to extended decline if it's not reversed'. That quote from The Ivany Report - The Nova Scotia Commission on Building Our New Economy, released in 2014 on the state of our province urged us, you and I, to act if we want to sustain our way of life especially in rural Nova Scotia. NOW Lunenburg County is a group of business people and concerned citizens who got together five years ago to figure out what we can do.
No matter what you think of the Ivany Report citizens all over the province started community-led initiatives such as NOW Lunenburg County, each tackling their local issues and making progress at different rates, which says to me the report got something right - it got us engaged.
NOW Lunenburg County knew we needed to do things differently; the old way of relying on government to solve community problems has not been working very well in rural Nova Scotia. We needed to understand what was happening and what ideas people had for addressing our challenges. We hosted community engagement events, talked to employers and newcomers. What we heard was confusing. People said there were no jobs here. Employers told us that they needed staff. Residents asked why on earth people would ever move here, yet, families who were new to the area quickly told us why they fell in love with this place, and how much possibility they see. Folks would lament on social media that there was nothing to do here, while others responded that they have never lived in a community with more to do. “You’ll pay a lot more in taxes,” is the cautionary comment some Nova Scotians wrote, while others responded with, “I’ll happily pay your taxes because I feel safe here.” You’d have sworn they were talking about two different places. Why the disconnect? And how could we help connect the two?
We concluded, and our demographics support this conclusion, that our future prosperity depends on growing our population. More people living in Lunenburg County stimulates the economy, creates a larger talent pool for employers to draw from, increases our school population and creates greater opportunities for businesses to grow and thrive.
In 2017 NOW Lunenburg County embarked on a cross-Canada tour inviting people to move to Lunenburg County. A big, bold idea that no one had done before! Two years later we are still following up with people who learned about this county through the tour.
We continue to act on what we learned while on our cross-Canada Tour, during our recent European tour with Immigration Nova Scotia, from talking to employers, newcomers and residents alike.
This will take more than NOW Lunenburg County. It will take more than our governments. It will take all of us, working together.
We hope you'll tune in weekly to hear more of our learning, insights, and ideas and we welcome you to share some of your own.
Dr Tarah Millen
From biking, to yoga, art and music, in Lunenburg County Nova Scotia, doctors and other health care professionals can practice far more than medicine!
The entrepreneurial spirit of Lunenburg County comes alive in a new magazine just launched by NOW LunenburgCounty! Experience a lifestyle boom in this sumptuous publication.
BY JENNIFER NAUGLER
Living in Toronto and having recently finished school, Hannah
Cook and Elliot Wajchendler began working in their respective
careers as interior designer and architect. After some time and
circumstance, not feeling especially satisfied with their jobs,
they eventually began talking about where their careers and
lives were headed. More importantly, where they wanted to be.
Hannah grew up in Lunenburg County with her parents and
three siblings on a chicken farm, and was feeling the pull to
come back home. Elliot was open to coming to Nova Scotia and
loved the idea of living in an area with so much nature and
space. After some deliberation, Hannah packed up all their
things and moved to NS with Elliot joining her six months later
after finishing a temporary job out west.
Their original plan was to build a tiny home to live in, but
until that happened they were staying in the 100+ year old
farmhouse on the Cook farm property. The interior designer in
Hannah and the architect in Elliot, started peeking around the
old home and immediately felt inspired to start doing some
restoring and renovating.
They started in the living room and began recording some video,
mostly for their own purposes to document the process. When
they finished, Elliot spent some time editing and then decided
to upload the video, entitled Farmhouse Restoration- $300
Living Room Reno, to YouTube and Reddit. Within 24 hours, they
had received 800 subscribers. At the one-year mark, that first
video now has over 400,000 views.
Receiving so much positive feedback, they decided to keep
going and began dedicating more time to the video process.
Renovating the farmhouse, and sharing that experience, they
have built up a large following. They currently have close to
60,000 subscribers and 2.4 million total video views. With the
money they make from ad revenue, Elliot is now a full-time
YouTuber, while Hannah has a full-time job and her own cake
decorating business on the side.
Leaving Lunenburg County for a while and coming back has
given Hannah a whole new respect for the area. When you are
young, it’s easy to say there is nothing to do here, but Hannah
says if you go looking, there is lots to do, mentioning the
beautiful trails and recent addition of craft breweries. Blown
away by the space, nature, and the convenience, the longer Elliot
is in Pinegrove, the more he loves it. They both enjoy the slower
paced lifestyle and the sense of community.
Elliot describes these times as “ground-breaking” in that there
is so much potential online. There is still work to do, but you can
really do that work from anywhere. Hannah and Elliot are both
glad this new reality allows them to build their lives, living and
working in Lunenburg County, Nova Scotia.
Hannah’s Cake Designs
Tina Hennigar is the population growth coordinator for NOW Lunenburg County.