Practice general medicine in Canada

A profile of physicians in Canada, by the CIHI – Canadian Institute for Health Information, states that they have never been so many (82,198) and their numbers are growing three times faster than the Canadian population (a trend that is expected to continue over the next few years). 

However, Canada has been experiencing a shortage of family doctors for decades; 14% of Canadians do not have a GP. This shortage is particularly acute in rural areas, but also in large cities with a large number of immigrants. An additional family doctors is then needed to overcome the current shortage of GPs and the estimated population increase. 

DESCRIPTION

General medicine covers various titles such as doctors, family doctors, general practitioners (GP), doctors of medicine.

The role of family doctor was redefined by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC) in 1967 to provide it with greater value with respect to specialists, whose influence was becoming too broad. GPs now have specific skills; they may be involved in prevention, early diagnoses and provide special care. As opposed to specialists, family doctors forge relationships over time with their patients, whom they generally see four times a year. Only a few specialists such as pediatricians can continue to practice general medicine. The College also issued four basic principles for the practice of medicine in Canada: the importance of the doctor-patient relationship, clinician competence, the notion of resources for a defined population, and professionalism, which allows them to adapt.

Family doctors work primarily in medical clinics, private offices or in hospitals. There has been a strong demand in rural areas and outlying regions. Geriatric care represents an increasingly major component of family medicine due to the growing elderly population.

DUTIES

  • Examine patients, provide emergency care and write prescriptions.
  • Prescribe complementary examinations such as lab tests and x-rays.
  • Give vaccinations.
  • Provide long-term care.
  • Supervise home care services.
  • Give health and lifestyle advice.
  • Conduct disease and accident prevention.
  • Inform government authorities of births, deaths, and contagious diseases.

EDUCATION AND JOB REQUIREMENTS

To practise medicine in Canada, the following is required:

  • A bachelor’s degree and Ph.D. in medicine. In Quebec, the process is different: a CEGEP diploma in health science followed by a year of premed and integration into a medical faculty.
  • A two- to three-year residency in family medicine.
  • Pass the Medical Council of Canada qualifying examinations and obtain a professional licence to practise.

PROFILE

  • Strong interest in the health and well-being of people
  • Problem-solving and decision-making skills
  • Commitment to continuous learning
  • Listening and observation skills
  • Emotional stability, maturity and integrity
  • Good interpersonal skills
  • Able to work independently and as part of a multidisciplinary team
  • Ability to handle stressful situations

SALARY

Doctors’ salaries often comprise three types of separate compensation including salary, payment per procedure, and capitation (set amount per patient over a given period). There is a significant disparity by province (the Canadian average is $339,000).

CAREER PATH

Generally, the career path of a GP is predictable. It is possible to make career changes by following specific training(continuous professional development, continuous medical education, doing a stint in family medicine abroad) or by building on parallel activities (hospital consults, internship supervisor, specific consultations on smoking and alcohol use, for example).

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