by Paul Vickers,
Director, Ontario Federation of Agriculture
Farm safety should be at the forefront of everyone’s minds while working on the farm every day. However, as we all know, unfortunate events still occur. It’s important to have professionals well-equipped and knowledgeable to handle those situations when they do happen.
The Bruce County Federation of Agriculture (BCFA) identified the importance of trained medical workers in rural hospitals and organizes an annual medical students’ tour. Since 2003, first-year medical students at Schulich School of Medicine & Dentistry at Western University spend a two-week placement in a rural hospital during their first-year studies. One day throughout the placement, BCFA works with a member of the doctor recruitment committee to tour these students around local farm operations and businesses. The number of students who participate vary. However, many local hospitals such as Walkerton and Chesley, are very committed to the success of the day.
On the full-day tour, the medical students will visit a dairy farm, a tractor dealership and a grain elevator before arriving at the local fire station for a series of presentations. Speakers include a local news reporter, a veterinarian, and a farmer who has been involved in a farm accident, which is the newest addition to the speaker line-up.
This tour demonstrates a broad range of hazards, such as working at heights at an elevator, handling and storing chemicals, dangers of farm machinery, working with livestock and zoonotic viruses (diseases that are transferable between animals and humans). BCFA hosts this event to educate students on the hazards that farmers and people working within agriculture face and to familiarize them with the different types of exposure and risks in rural areas.
Future doctors that can understand the additional safety risks within the agricultural sector, and who are prepared to treat farm accidents when they do occur, are crucial to rural hospitals. Rural communities need to attract and retain qualified medical professionals to ensure that rural Ontario is a safe place to live, work and raise a family. For Ontario to grow the agri-food sector, create jobs, and be competitive to stimulate rural economic development, we need the same high-quality services in our hospitals and schools that are available in urban communities.
For many medical students, the farming sector is new to them, so this annual tour provides real life experiences and encounters related to farm safety and rural living. It also encourages them to consider the benefits of one day practicing in a rural area, where there is often a shortage of medical professionals. The BCFA tour for medical students could serve as a template for many communities across the province that are interested in attracting medical professionals to their farm and rural areas.
We appreciate the efforts of BCFA for organizing this annual tour and promoting farm safety within their community.