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Recently I found myself chatting with our local doctor recruitment coordinator, and that reminded me of a Design Thinking workshop our team at the Acadia Entrepreneurship Centre designed and ran for a local community:
This local community had reached out to us wanting to expose students and municipal leaders to human-centered design, and asked if we could run a training or workshop. I immediately suggested an experiential learning approach, and asked if there was a local topic or challenge we could focus the workshop on – and they suggested ‘how might we turn our community into a place where doctors want to come and stay?’
True to Design Thinking, we invited a mix of stakeholders, from students to community members to municipal leaders – and of course those most affected: healthcare workers and doctors, both local and newer to the area.
Through empathy interviews with further doctors and their families, and a variety of insightful Design Thinking methods, we found interesting insights – some were know, some were not; some seemed obvious after the fact but hadn’t been considered. Here are a few:

  • Feeling welcome & belonging is key. It’s easier when every day interactions don’t require local knowledge (e.g. getting directions based on ‘you know where the old gas station used to be?’). It’s easier if doctors and their families are welcomed as regular people, just as everyone else (rather than as ‘that’s the new doctor’)
  • Finding fun things to do is key – both for the doctors themselves, and for their families. Getting invited by locals to join activities means a lot.
  • Some doctors are at first there temporarily – coming in for a few days or weeks each month; during this time, they often work long shifts and barely have opportunity to really get to know the community or make connections. Simple solutions like inviting the to dinner during those times can mean a lot and make them more likely to move full-time – as one doctor said in an empathy interview: ‘I just don’t want to eat alone every day’.

The mixed teams came up with many creative, yet simple solutions – from a friend matching program to a dinner club with rotating hosts. In true Design Thinking fashion, they immediately got feedback from the doctors and healthcare workers in the room, allowing them to improve and adjust as needed.