By Jessica Long
For more than 50 years, the primary care clinic at the North End Community Health Centre (NECHC) has worked tirelessly to make a difference in the lives of people our community experiencing poverty and homelessness. Andrea Rideout, MD, FCFP, one of the family physicians with the NECHC, says the clinic is committed to quality primary health care to help people live as healthy as they can, while recognizing the impact of the social determinants of health.
During Family Medicine rotations at the clinic, medical learners have the opportunity to work with a variety of health care professionals as well as patients in different contexts. This collaborative practice model fosters an understanding of how the social determinants of health impact individuals and communities.
“For learners at the clinic, I tell them that there are two main things I hope they will get out of their experience at the NECHC. Firstly, an understanding of what our collaborative primary care practice looks like. The second thing is the impact that the social determinants of health can have on an individual’s health, as well as health care access, and how we as health care professionals can help them in that respect,” explained Dr. Rideout.
The NECHC is a non-profit organization established in 1971 to fill a gap in access to primary health care and other health services in Halifax’s North End. Located on Gottingen Street, the NECHC has long been an important foundation for the community. The interdisciplinary team consists of physicians, nurse practitioners, nurses, social workers, dietitians, students and volunteers, as well as shared care mental health, internal medicine and gynecology.
The clinic provides essential primary care services for a diverse patient population, many with complex medical and social needs. In addition to the primary care clinic, the NECHC strives to offer additional points of entry to care including: supported housing, managed alcohol and safer supply programs, low barrier mental health programs, Mobile Outreach Street Health (MOSH), dental services and programs for those who are food insecure.
Dr. Rideout says person-centered care and team collaboration, where patients, families and caregivers can develop continuous relationships with their providers, are core values of the clinic.
“The clinic has established meaningful relationships within the community and provides services to multi-generational families. We also have transient patient populations, and we may work with them for short periods of time. Even if it’s a short relationship, we can have a lasting impact on that person’s health and well-being,” explained Dr. Rideout. “It’s just a very rewarding experience to help people. We want to do our best to support people where they are in terms of optimizing their health,” she said.
Originally from Saint John, New Brunswick, Dr. Rideout completed medical school at Dalhousie University in 1996, followed by residency training in family medicine at Queen’s University. After residency training and a Master of Health Science in Family and Community Medicine, Dr. Rideout admits that she was still not fully confident in her medical practice skills. She noted that it can be intimidating for new graduates to begin practice, even more so to begin practicing without team support.
After completing a series of locums, Dr. Rideout said that she began to question if medicine was the right career for her. In 2003, she returned to Halifax to pursue an education degree and began working at the NECHC. It was the NECHC’s collaborative practice model which rejuvenated her interest in medicine.
“In this model, there were people around for me to ask questions, and then we would have team meetings to talk about difficult cases,” she said. “It’s a very encouraging, comforting environment to be situated in while continuing to build your own skills.”
The NECHC is continuing to expand its services and is planning to add more physicians and allied health professionals to the team. Dr. Rideout encourages new medical graduates to reach out if they are interested in working at the clinic.
“We’re happy to invite new graduates to come and meet us, to see if it’s the right fit for them,” said Dr. Rideout. “It’s a great place to work and is very fulfilling.”