Last Updated on December 7, 2020
Family physicians from the United Kingdom immigrate to Canada by the dozens almost every year to practice medicine free of much of the administrative headaches in their home countries and enjoy a great quality of life.
“In the United Kingdom and Ireland, they have to spend a lot of time documenting everything they do,” says John Livingstone, senior physician recruiter for CMC Canada Medical Careers Inc. “A procedure that could take 10 minutes of administrative work here could take 30 minutes there.”
Livingstone, whose company operates online as CanadaMedicalCareers.ca, has more than a decade of experience in helping family physicians come to Canada. He says the main attraction of Canada for U.K.-based family physicians is the work-life balance Canada provides medical professionals.
“They work-family hours here and these are generally steady positions,” he says. “In the United Kingdom, they often have sessions and these are always up in the air.”
The Medical Council of Canada says that between spring 2016 and fall 2018, nearly 4,800 candidates sat part one of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE), equating to nearly 1,600 per year. The pass rate for first-time test takers hovered around 60 per cent.
With the rise of the COVID-19 global pandemic in 2020, the number of physicians – and other newcomers – immigrating to Canada has dropped off sharply.
There are many opportunities for physicians to practice medicine in Canada, including private clinics, hospitals, and larger, public clinics, says Canada Medical Careers’ Dr. Frank.
Certainly, Canada is deeply committed to immigration.
In October, Ottawa unveiled plans to allow even more immigrants to come to Canada than previously planned. The new goal is to have 401,000 new permanent residents to Canada in 2021, 411,000 in 2022, and 421,000 for the following year.
“Canadians have seen how newcomers are playing an outsized role in our hospitals and care homes, and helping us to keep food on the table,” said Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Minister Marco Mendicino. “As we look to recovery, newcomers create jobs not just by giving our businesses the skills they need to thrive, but also by starting businesses themselves. Our plan will help to address some of our most acute labour shortages and to grow our population to keep Canada competitive on the world stage.
“Immigration is essential to getting us through the pandemic, but also to our short-term economic recovery and our long-term economic growth,” he said.
There are many programs through which physicians can immigrate to Canada.
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.
Under the Provincial Nominee Program, 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.
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.
With a 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 practice 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.
At Canadian Medical Careers, Livingstone recommends to physicians that they check to see where they can practice in Canada before deciding on their preferred location.
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.
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.
With a population of about 38 million people spread over 10 provinces and three territories, Canada offers many opportunities for physicians – but not all areas are equally as profitable or offer the same quality of life.
Typically, the more remote an area is, the better the income opportunities for physicians.
That can be important for a young doctor with a lot of student debt who might choose to work in a remote northern community and get paid not only for seeing patients but also simply for working in that remote location.
In the prairie province of Saskatchewan, for example, a family physician in a mid-sized city can earn about $450,000 annually. That’s roughly the equivalent of 260,000 British Pounds, or 290,000 Euros, or 343,000 US dollars or 471,000 Australian dollars.
Other physicians may prefer to work on the west coast in a small town that offers year-round recreational opportunities like sailing, tennis, football, and a better work-life balance.
“It may mean earning less in a small town but the cost of living, and stress, will be less than a major city like Vancouver or Toronto,” says Dr. Frank.