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General Practitioner Talk with Dr. Kim Loeffler
Dr. Kim Loeffler – MD, BSc, CCFP, graduated from B. Sc Mathematical Science from the University of Alberta in 1999 and was accepted into medical school at the UofA in 2000. Kim entered her family medicine residency in 2004 and completed the 2 year residency program in 2007 with a delay due to the birth of her first daughter. She has spent the majority of her career as a faculty advisor for family medicine residents at the University of Alberta. Recently, however, Kim transitioned the majority of her time to working within the hospital setting. She also worked for the College of Physicians and Surgeons where she carrys out physician assessments and help with physician complaints.
General practitioners and family physicians diagnose and treat the diseases, physiological disorders and injuries of patients. They provide primary contact and continuous care toward the management of patients’ health. They usually work in private practice, including group or team practices, hospitals and clinics. Residents in training to be general practitioners or family physicians are included in this unit group.
The employment outlook will be good for General practitioners and family physicians for the 2021-2023 period.
A bachelor’s degree or In Quebec, completion of a college program and one year of pre-medicine university studies is usually required.
Graduation from an approved medical school and Two to three years of family medicine residency training are required.
Completion of the qualifying examinations of the Medical Council of Canada and Licensing by the provincial or territorial licensing authority are required.
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Full Length Episode:
Complete Episode Transcript
Today’s guest is Dr. Kim Loeffler.
Here’s our Job Talk with a General Practioner.
Welcome to the Job Talk Podcast.
Where we talk to people who love their jobs.
Our guests open up about their challenges surprises and secrets to success in their industries.
Through conversation we explore their careers past work experiences and the education that got them to where they are now.
I start out each podcast by taking you all the way back to when you were a high school student.
What kind of a high school student were you? Kim.
I graduated third of my class.
I was on every sports team.
I got honors, if not greater than 90 and every subject worked two part time jobs.
I don’t know one of those kids.
Did you have to work really hard at your studies or did it come relatively easy to you in high school? Absolutely.
So my first year of university was a disaster.
It was, okay, so we can jump right into your first post-secondary experience so you graduated with really good marks from high school.
What was your first post-secondary experience? Well, it was so much fun and probably a little bit too much I didn’t do very well my first year at university, so I had to refocus the only class I did really well.
And back then it was nines was math, and I knew I wanted to do medicine, so I knew I had to get all nines.
So I changed my degree to a math degree.
When you first enter post-secondary, are you just going in as a general bachelor of science student? Yeah, that’s what I did. Okay.
And that gives you a good introduction to what post-secondary life is like and how hard you have to work.
So was it at the end of the first semester or was it the end of the first year that you discovered? I’m going to have to you start to work a little harder.
Because your first year when I went, you couldn’t really choose what to take.
If I was going to do sciences, it was like you had to take English.
You had to take you know, it was very there wasn’t a lot of options.
So and your main focus was always to become a doctor, do you think? Yeah, I wanted to be a veterinarian, like when I was in high school, and then I volunteered at a vet clinic, and it wasn’t for me.
So then I started volunteering at the Stollery in high school, working in the children’s ward.
And then I got a job, actually, from my volunteer experience.
I started working in radiology as a receptionist.
And so yeah, yeah, it was it was the right fit.
I’m very naive with this.
How long is medical school and what happens? So you get your bachelor of science in mathematics.
So some schools are only two years.
You only need two years of undergrad experience before you get in.
Most schools are trying to transition to a degree first, just so that you’re a little bit more mature of a student.
So a degree and then a degree, a medical degree and then a residency and then a residency.
What is the course load like? What what is it like to study medicine? Okay.
So different schools have different philosophies of education, so it depends where you’re going.
When I went to the U of A, it was a pass fail system because they already knew that we were you know, smart enough or we had the critical thinking skills to handle the program.
So it was just about passing.
But the type of people you put into medicine, it isn’t really about passing.
Right? It’s anyway, it’s tough.
It’s really, really tough.
I was in the library if I wasn’t studying and then you had to work in a lab with a cadaver, which was super interesting. And but there was no time outside of that.
I did maintain a part time job just because of how I grew up.
Like I didn’t have a lot of money, so I needed to make sure that I had some income.
So I did still work in radiology, which also just helped me to just have connections and things like that.
But there’s no life outside of it, really.
And how many years is that stress as you’re going through it? So the first two years in medical school are in class in general, there are more work experiences are trying to integrate a little bit more in your first two years but mostly it’s in class and then the last two years are clinical where you’re in the hospital.
And so you feel like the first two years are pretty stressful when you’re in it.
But then the last two years in the hospital are actually more stressful because you’re just starting, you start call, you start taking care of patients Things have changed a lot since I graduated.
You were a lot more independent, but there’s a lot more oversight now, the residency that you do after that.
Is that part of the.
So two years of in-class and then two years you’re doing a residency, is that correct? No.
Two years in class.
Two years of medical school, like clinical training.
So then after you pass that, you get your four year, you get your degree.
So in your third fourth year, you start thinking about what kind of doctor do you want to be, what specialty do you want to do? And then you apply for residency.
So it’s again, kind of like a med school application.
You apply to do your residency and whatever specialty and wherever you want to do it.
So somewhere usually within Canada.
And in order to get those residency spots, you have to make sure you have experience in your clinical years in that specialty and hopefully in the place that you want to be.
Let’s talk about you specifically.
What what happened when when you graduated, when you were finished school? I was working in Emergency and Leduc.
I was doing Emergency also in Sherwood Park.
I worked in Leduc doing a low come.
I was delivering babies at the Gray Nuns.
I was doing everything being crazy person.
But then I had my son.
As a staff doctor, you’re incorporated not incorporated, but you’re self-employed, so you don’t really have any benefits.
You don’t have sick time, you don’t have a maternity leave.
The kind of started something with the Alberta Medical Association where they pay you sort of a stipend per week when you have a baby, but it’s only for sixteen weeks.
So and then so somewhat.
Then I went back after about sixteen weeks, but I couldn’t continue that kind of life.
So I got a job at the place that I trained.
So I trained as a resident at the Green and Family Medicine Center.
And so they offered me a position there after Freddie was born.
And I worked there until COVID, really.
And what is that, the position that you’re in right now? No, I changed my career path once COVID started I, I, I love working in the hospital.
It’s definitely my passion.
And I couldn’t do it once I had my third baby just because of logistics.
Of being a mom and working and trying to make everything work with hockey and, you know, our life.
And so I gave that up for about six years.
And then once Hazel was in grade one, I went back to the hospital, and then COVID started and the hours at the hospital were crazy.
The amount of shifts that I had to do were too much.
And I had wanted to transition my career anyways.
That had already been about 14 or 15 years of doing similar things.
I wanted to do something different.
So I transitioned out of family practice to work mostly in the hospital.
You touched on it.
Let’s just briefly talk about the pandemic and COVID.
How was your career through this two year nightmare we just experienced? I was a lucky one that I had transitioned at a clinic sort of at the same time.
So it was a little bit, I think, easier for me in the hospital.
It was stressful for sure, but everything is so controlled in the office.
I found it actually a little bit more hard because there are so many people needing time off for COVID related reasons, whether they were immunized or not immunized, whether they could work somewhere.
The disability claims everything just came like crazy.
And then we were doing mostly virtual care, which you can’t really provide.
I feel as good of care doing things over the phone it wasn’t the type of practice I wanted to do anymore, so transition to the hospital.
Talking about your position now, could you let our listeners know what your day to day is like? Like when you wake up in the morning and also like, I don’t know if you if you exercise in the morning, but could you take us through a typical day for you in your job? I do. So many different roles.
Yes, I work at the hospital, but okay, so I wake up, I help with the kids, and then I head to Grandview, which is a subacute ortho rehab unit.
So people who have had hip replacements had car accidents, traumas, they come there for rehab.
So I round on those patients and then I go wherever I’m supposed to go for the day.
So either to the hospital to do my weekly rotations or I work at the hip and knee clinic, which is a place that people go for replacements.
Or I work at the college.
So I work at the College of Physicians and Surgeons where I review doctors who are in trouble or doctors who have an audit on the practice and review that.
I also work on a committee where complaints go from the college.
So I do that work as well.
So my day is different, which is what I love.
I don’t want to do the same things day in and day out at the clinic I had worked out for the past 15 years.
I also do a locum, so if doctors need some time off, for whatever reason, I’ll go in and I’ll cover their practice for a few days here and there.
And what time does your day end? Usually Well, it depends on what I’m doing, so if I’m at the hospital like 8 p.m.
and if I’m on call, then it doesn’t end right.
You’re on call night and you’re up in the evening, in the night time, and then you just start your day the next day.
If I’m in clinic, usually I’m home at six.
If I’m working for the college, it’s all at home.
So it’s whenever I can just do it, I have to review charts and things from home.
It’s really varied.
Hey, I love it. It is.
But I think that’s good.
I’m glad you said that. You love it.
I’m going to get to that in a second.
What are some of your your challenges that kind of stand out for you in your career? Oh, it’s being able to be present for my family because my job is so, so emotionally difficult.
It’s hard to be present, if you know what I mean.
Like people my kids have their own challenges, my husband.
So that’s been the biggest challenge is being actually listening and to what’s going on in their lives and trying to balance how much work needs me versus how much my home needs me.
And that changes as our kids age.
So when they’re toddlers, there’s different needs versus when they’re teenagers.
And as a mom, you have your own guilt about how much time you should be with them and how much time you should be working.
So, yeah, and then exercise.
I’m sorry, I forgot to touch on that is super important to me.
It’s always been really important to me, but it is so difficult.
So I’ve started to forgive myself if I can’t exercise.
But I know it sounds crazy, but I used to give myself so much guilt if I couldn’t exercise every day.
But I changed my goals.
I try to exercise as much as I can.
I know I.
It’s not something that I wouldn’t do if I have time that it’s difficult to find the time.
Yeah, it’s interesting hearing you talk about the whole Work-Life Balance, and I can imagine being a doctor, that being a big challenge.
What do you love about your work? I mean, my job is such an honor, I think, and such a privilege.
People share things with me.
They don’t share with anyone else and their struggles and their personal struggles.
I am really lucky to have that position for sure, and I really do enjoy it.
I like work helping people work through their problems, trying to help them medically, fixing things sometimes not fixing things, but allowing people to die gracefully with dignity, pain. You know, it’s decreased.
I love it.
What do you like to do in your pastime? When you travel, you take holidays.
Oh, my gosh. I take so many holidays.
I find in our job, if you don’t take holidays, you become a terrible physician.
So I like being with my family and being present.
You have to be present with my job or you miss really important things.
You miss body language.
You miss like inflection of words, which really mean something with my job.
And if I want to be as good as I can be at my job, I have to make sure that I’m there for patients, too.
So, yeah, if I find them, I’m not truly listening to a conversation or a nurse will make a comment to me about something and I pass it off because I’m not truly listening.
I know that it’s just time to take some time.
So I try to book a vacation or a break for a week or so every three or four months.
What is one thing you wish you had known before you started it as a doctor? Like your your education is complete.
Walking into actually working as a doctor, what’s one thing you wish you knew? Well, I think that the new medical students know this, but what I didn’t know is I thought if people wanted to lose weight, they could just choose to lose weight or like diabetes.
You just have to choose to eat better.
And it’s like a flaw.
We didn’t really know much about it, but now in my career, I realize that it’s a societal, generational.
It’s just so complicated.
It’s socioeconomic price of food where you live.
Everything is so complicated.
That it and I didn’t realize that.
I wish I would have known that before.
That really system changes need to be happening in order to make society healthier or you know, I felt like I could make some huge difference in all these people’s lives.
But you can’t it comes down to a lot of different things that I didn’t really realize that med school like now, I think, does prepare students to be aware that we have to help with system changes if we really want to make the health of society better What advice could you give a post-secondary student that has completed their bachelor’s program going into medicine is there advice you could give to them, like who want to get into medicine, who are already in medicine? Let’s do that as a two part.
Let’s first go they want to get into medicine.
Well, things are different now to get into medicine, so I think you should just do what you’re passionate about.
So prerequisites at the U of A anyways no longer exist.
It’s just your overall mark.
So I think as long as you’re doing what you’re passionate about an undergrad you you should be okay.
And now they look at part time jobs and equivalency of like having volunteer experience because I realize that they’re selecting for kids that have more than kids that don’t.
And then that changes the pool of kids who are in med school.
If everyone volunteer is in Africa, well, there’s only a certain kid that can volunteer in Africa and not work all summer.
So I think doing what your passionate about and doing things excellently.
So they do look at those who say are in the Olympics or who made the varsity team or you know, win awards with musical performances. And that type of thing is also great at higher yeah.
And so even with those things, it does reflect socio economic as we know it.
To be an Olympian, it costs lots of money so you have to it’s difficult.
But I think if you do your undergrad, what you’re passionate about and you work really hard to do that excellently and then everything else that you do in your life, you try to do the best you can.
I think that’s all you can do.
And the advice to a student that is accepted and going into medical school, I think the exact same thing.
Don’t forget, while you’re there, don’t forget why you want to do it and then just do the best you can, absorb all the information that you can make lifelong friendships, which you for sure will enjoy the journey.
Med school, is it the best? It is so much fun.
You meet friends that you will be friends with forever.
Yeah, enjoy it and make sure you’re present.
I think there’s sometimes a myth about becoming a doctor, and maybe there’s an idea that if you become a doctor, you’ll suddenly be financially rich.
Could you speak to the finances around being in medicine? You’re right.
It’s really expensive.
People are having hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt when they graduate.
Now, back in my day, it was different, of course, right? But yeah, it’s.
And to run a practice is very expensive.
No, I am okay.
We, we make a good income like for sure.
But you have to also consider that it takes at least ten years.
So people have had an income for ten years prior.
Like if you’re gonna be a family doctor per se, before I even got started and there is no retirement savings plan, there’s no life insurance, disability there’s nothing, there’s no medical plan.
So it’s different.
You’re a self-employed employee.
After ten years of training at minimum, and the family medicine residency program is increasing to three years.
So it’s going to be 11 years.
It’s not just you don’t just swimming in money for sure.
And I wouldn’t suggest you do this for money.
I think that there’s a lot of other career path that you can do if you’re thinking that you want to be financially secure.
And it’s there’s too much emotional baggage that comes with our job that it’s not, it’s not worth it.
There’s other choices that you could make if, if financially this is what you want to do.
And I think sometimes people sorry can do it for prestige.
Maybe you like it because I’m a doctor.
Or it’s not.
I wouldn’t say my job is very prestigious.
I think it’s very honorable.
And I think I get to find out a lot of things about people, but I don’t feel like prestige just being a doctor.
Is there anything that I haven’t asked you that you would you would like to offer up for, for somebody considering a career in medicine? No. Well, sure.
I always have advice I think you should want to do it because you want to make a difference in people’s lives.
It’s just it’s not easy to continue to do medicine forever.
I think your career will have to change with time because of the stresses and what you’ll see.
Make sure you have a good support network like your family and friends and people you can talk to.
Yeah, and I think self-reflection and taking breaks analyzing why you’re doing it at different steps in your career is really important.
Has there ever been a moment in your career that happened and it made you feel like, this is why I’m a doctor? Of course I want to say all the time, which is why my job is so wonderful all the time.
I think that.
So I work at the hospital mostly now, and people are often come there who are really sick.
And one of my passions is allowing people to die with dignity.
And I take a lot of pride and I’m so honored that I get to spend this time with the patients.
So helping people die at home and helping them get the right resources within their home so that they can die with those around them.
And it’s such an amazing experience and such a great opportunity.
I know it sounds crazy because people are dying but it brings me so much joy to be able to do this for my patients.
So yeah, all the time.
That is an amazing answer.
Thank you, Kim, so much for joining us today.
You’re welcome. Thanks for asking me.