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How are we orienting new and visiting doctors for retention?
Elk Valley Hospital's “Buddy Program” creates a soft landing and welcoming, helpful environment for new and visiting doctors, while streamlining patient care from the outset.

2024 Lightning Talk: The Buddy Program, Dr Rob Riddell (VP of MSA) and Dr Rae Petrucha (Elk Valley Hospital MSA, Fernie)

Smooth transitions for patient care, connections and relationships

In 2017, Elk Valley Hospital (EVH) started a Welcome Committee to support visiting physicians who provided services after the main surgeon retired, as a strategy to avoid operating room closures. That committee evolved into the Mentoring and Coaching Program in 2018, and is now known as the Buddy Program. 

How the Buddy Program works

Experienced mentor physicians guide new doctors around different areas of the hospital for one or two shifts, or as needed. The Emergency Department lead takes one shift and encourages other physicians to take on additional shifts to provide different perspectives. As mentors, they:

  • share knowledge of unit procedures and referral pathways,
  • orient new physicians to policies and practices,
  • introduce them to other staff, and
  • get to know new physicians on a personal level.

The project team also organizes and supports welcome lunches to facilitate relationship-building between existing, visiting, and new physicians.


  • Three MSA executive members report the Buddy Program has had significant impact on their decision to stay at EVH. 
  • Seventy-three hours of mentorship and support has been provided for new physicians and surgeons since 2018.

Lessons and success factors:

  • The MSA books buddy shifts in advance for the incoming physicians, within the existing schedule of the mentor physicians.
  • Budgeting can be a challenge as it is difficult to predict how many physicians will need support in a given year. 
  • Mentees bill for Buddy Program time through Fee-For-Service. 
  • Mentor time is supported through Facility Engagement sessionals for the time they are in hospital providing hands-on mentorin. Mentors leave once mentees are feeling comfortable.

“It is knowing who to call and how to find out where your help is... It also helps with recruitment and retention because we’re all having a better time when we only have to concentrate on the medicine.” – Dr Kim Allan, MD

“We are making it a little bit more palpable for locums to continue to come back or move here, and making new physicians feeling much more welcome” - Dr Rob Riddell – MSA VP


Lightning Talk presentation slides 



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