Canada’s chronic family physician shortage is only going to get worse unless the country can attract more internationally-trained doctors through federal and provincial immigration programs.
“Canada is estimated to be short nearly 44,000 physicians, including over 30,000 family doctors and general practitioners, before the end of the decade,” reports RBC in its Proof Point: Canada Needs More Doctors – And Fast report.
“Though 2,400 family physician positions were advertised on government websites by the end of 2021, just 1,496 family doctors exited residency training that year.”
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In Canada, family physicians, National Occupational Classification 2021 (NOC) code 31102, earn a median annual income of $216,833 but that varies wildly based on where in the country the physician is practicing and how many years of experience he or she has, the federal job-hunting and career-planning Job Bank website reveals.
At the low end, these physicians can have a median annual salary of $76,759 while the high-end median annual salary is $451,997.
Specialists can command even higher incomes, with a median annual income of $273,510. At the low end, the median annual income is $100,694 and at the high end $557,366.
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Job Bank describes the prospects for physicians and specialists as “very good”, its highest ranking, throughout the country for the next eight years.
There are many programs through which physicians can immigrate to Canada and the country has certainly thrown open wide the doors to immigration.
In its 2023-2025 Immigration Levels Plan, Ottawa has set its immigration target for 2023 at 465,000 new permanent residents. The country is to welcome 485,000 new permanent residents in 2024 and another 500,000 in 2025. That’s a total of 1.45 million immigrants to Canada over the coming three years.
Canada is looking for individuals who have a range of skills, education and experience that can help them gain employment in Canada and successfully integrate into Canadian society.
Physicians Can Immigrate To Canada Through The FSW Or CEC Express Entry Programs
Through their Provincial Nominee Programs (PNP), provinces and territories can also nominate physicians for permanent residence if they meet particular regional labour market needs and intend to settle in that province or territory. Provinces can recruit candidates from the Express Entry pool or they can nominate individuals under their non-Express Entry paper-based streams.
Across the country, there are PNP streams specifically aimed at helping physicians immigrate to Canada, including:
- the Saskatchewan Health Professionals stream;
- Nova Scotia’s Physician stream and Labour Market Priorities for Physician stream, and;
- British Columbia’s Health Authority stream.
But before a physician can practice in Canada, he or she needs to have his or her qualifications recognized.
The national organization that sets standards for physicians, including immigrating physicians, is the Ottawa-based Medical Council of Canada (MCC). It does not confer or issue licences to physicians. That responsibility belongs to the provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities.
Instead, the MCC’s role is to grant a qualification in medicine known as the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) to medical graduates who:
- have passed the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part I and Part 2, or an acceptable clinical assessment deemed comparable to the MCCQE Part II, and;
- have satisfactorily completed at least 12 months of acceptable postgraduate training or an acceptable equivalent.
Medical Council Of Canada Offers A Credential Verification Service Through Website
With an LMCC document in hand, physicians intending to practice in Canada then have to enroll in the Canadian Medical Register to meet the Canadian Standard, a set of academic qualifications that makes an applicant eligible for full licensing in every Canadian province and territory.
Family physicians applying for the first time to become licensed to practise medicine in a Canadian jurisdiction may achieve full licensure only if they meet the following:
- have a medical degree from a medical school that, at the time the candidate completed the program, was listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools;
- are a Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada;
- have satisfactorily completed a discipline-appropriate postgraduate training program in allopathic medicine and an evaluation by a recognized authority, and;
- have achieved certification from the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada or the Collège des médecins du Québec.
That is for full licensure to practice anywhere in Canada. Many foreign-trained doctors start their practices with a provisional license.
In Canada, a foreign-trained physician’s credentials may meet the licensure requirements of one province but not another.
The MCC offers a credential verification service through a website, PhysiciansApply.ca. This is a comprehensive website where medical students and graduates can create an account.
PhysiciansApply.ca provides a wide range of features and services to help medical students and graduates through the process of becoming practicing physicians in Canada.
Some of those features and services include:
- applying for exams including the MCCQE1 and MCCQE2;
- medical registration;
- sharing credentials with medical regulatory authorities and other organizations, and;
- providing an orientation to the communication and cultural challenges facing physicians new to Canada.
As an International Medical Graduate, the first step for a physician intending to practice in Canada is to see if their medical college will be readily acceptable to the licensing body, the medical college, in each province.
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It is the physician’s responsibility to check whether his or her medical school is listed in the World Directory of Medical Schools, something that can be done by visiting WDOMS.org.
Once a physician finds his or her college in that online directory, the next step is to check the “Sponsor Note” tab and see if it states “Canada Note”. This means medical degrees obtained from this medical school are acceptable to the provincial and territorial medical regulatory authorities in Canada and therefore acceptable to all medical organizations in Canada.
A challenge for many internationally-educated physicians immigrating to Canada is the paucity of residency spots, a bottleneck in the country’s current healthcare system.
“Investment will be needed to expand the capacity of hospital and university networks, to add educators and assessors, and to increase residency spaces in the Canadian medical system,” notes RBC.
“More residency spaces are also needed to align with the increase in medical school student quotas. And streamlining credential recognition for internationally-trained physicians and international medical graduates will be crucial.”
As Canada and the provinces struggle to resolve this challenge, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) is planning to put in place a three-month program to recognize the foreign credentials of physicians this year.