In 1978, just beginning his medical career, Dr. Bruce Nicolson agreed to a six-month term to work in 100 Mile House as a locum.
At the time, he had been practicing as a physician in New Zealand and Australia, and training in rural health care, but he was familiar with the 100 Mile House area. Born and raised in Port Coquitlam, as a child Dr. Nicolson had camped and fished in the Cariboo with his family.
A trip back to the Cariboo as a young physician was in the cards.
What Dr. Nicolson would find after six months of rural medicine would keep him practicing in 100 Mile House for more than four decades, taking a keen interest in improving outcomes for his patients.
This year he was honoured for a lifetime of providing exceptional care, being named one of three 2020 BC Rural Health Award Lifetime Achievement recipients.
“I have to say there are some really wonderful physicians in 100 Mile House. I’ve learned a lot from them and any number of them would be as deserving as me,” Dr. Nicolson says of the award. “I feel very honoured to receive it but I can’t say that I stand out that much from many of my peers.”
The scope of practice in rural medicine is what sparked the interest in Dr. Nicolson early in his career, providing a wide variety of cases one might not see in a bigger centre. However over the years it’s been the support he has received in the community, and from his colleagues, that has meant the most to him.
“The warmth and appreciation that is so much a part of being in a rural community,” is a major attraction, according to Dr. Nicolson. “The thing that really kept me going is the collegiality that rural communities have with their physicians. You are very well accepted and get a lot of positive feedback from the community.
“I’ve always felt so much support from my colleagues. As a physician, sometimes you run into a rough patch with your cases and I could always reach out to the men and women I worked with. I always knew they had my back. It is very much a team thing that takes place.”
During his medical career, Dr. Nicolson has practiced continually in 100 Mile House, except for two sabbaticals for training, providing both office-based and emergency care, surgery, anesthesia and obstetrics. He’s delivered many children in the area over the years.
“It’s gone by so fast, sometimes I scratch my head,” he says. “I’m in the situation where I have delivered babies and then I have delivered babies from the babies I delivered. I just think ‘how did it go by so fast?’”
Throughout his career, Dr. Nicolson has travelled regularly to White Feather Clinic at the Canim Lake reserve to provide closer to home care for this remote population. He was one of the first physicians to add a nurse practitioner to his clinic and has served multiple terms as Chief of Staff of the 100 Mile District General Hospital.
A father of five, he is one of the founding members of the Central Interior Rural Division of Family Practice and helped lead the local deployment of ‘A GP for Me’ an initiative to attach patients to a local primary care provider.