UPDATE – Poor health system planning often to blame for unemployed docs

Royal College Staff
May 7, 2019 | Author: Royal College Staff

An updated report has been released (December 2019). It includes revised 2017 and new 2018 data collected for the Employment Study longitudinal surveys. Changes to the 2017 revised data are outlined in greater detail in the appendix to the report.

For some medical specialists, it feels like everything is working against them in their search for employment:

  • the job market is highly competitive,
  • too many late-career physicians aren’t ready (or willing) to retire,
  • hospitals/care centres don’t have funding for more resources, and
  • the job listings that exist are extremely difficult to access.

But are these individual hurdles actually symptoms of larger failings in the health care system? New data suggests that may be the case.

Employment Study report cover

Study highlights Canada’s shortcomings in workforce and health care planning

On May 1, 2019, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada released new findings from its employment study. This is the highly anticipated follow-up to their 2013 report that alerted the country to the employment challenges faced by many new specialists.

Since the Royal College began gathering employment data in 2011, between 11 and 18 per cent of new specialists have reported problems securing a job right after they have been certified. The latest study findings show that these challenges are in large part a by-product of shortcomings in workforce and health care planning.

As one recently certified otolaryngologist said,

“There are very few, if any, jobs in Otolaryngology at the present time. This is despite the fact that we graduate over 30 new otolaryngologists per year. The hospitals and potential employers currently have the upper hand as there are many applicants for few jobs.”

While workforce planning is currently focused on aligning physician supply with the health care needs of society, it is missing a number of important elements. These include, for example, the link between practice resources (including personnel and infrastructure) and employability. Other factors also come into play when looking at employment patterns, like family obligations and access to/ transparency of job postings.

Read more findings in the Royal College Employment Study (Updated Dec. 2019)


  • The title of this article has been amended to enhance clarity (May 9, 2019)
  • This article originally reported that between 14 and 19 per cent of new specialists reported problems securing a job right after certification. This data has been corrected to 11 and 18 per cent. A new version of this report replaces the version that was posted in May 2019 (December 12, 2019)

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Avatar Frederick Matzinger | June 25, 2019
Aligning physician supply with health care needs of society is a responsibility that must be shared by the deans of Post Graduate training at all medical schools.Ultimately the deans decide the allocation of residency training positions among family medicine and other specialty residencies.What oversight is there for their allocation of training positions to verify that they are committed to workforce planning? How are the post graduate deans addressing the undersupply of specialists in areas such as psychiatry, rheumatology, dermatology, etc.
Avatar John Malcolm | June 8, 2019
Hello Royal College Many provinces in Canada like Ontario is loosing several anesthesia specialists jobs to Family doctors ( who are trained for 10 months excluding weekends ) in anesthesia and working totally unsupervised, putting patients at risk. The domino effect of this practise is that these family doctors give up their family practise to become full time FPA when several thousand Canadians have no family doctor to look after them. No other western countries except Canada allow this practise of letting unqualified ( in anesthesia ) , extremely limited trained ( 10 months at the most ) , totally unsupervised Family doctors providing anesthesia. Hope the Royal College would stand up and root out this practise and protect the patients . The very least provide additional training of another 2-3 years and provide credentialing exams to this group of physicians who are totally working under the radar with little oversight. Also stop allowing these physicians to provide full time anesthesia and insist that they provide family practice service.
Avatar Rajn Vashisht | June 5, 2019
Reports of long waiting list to see a specialists. Long list of Medicine Specialist from India waiting approval to practice. If Long experience has no scope in Canada health system how it can run without doctors. It is purely imagination that experienced doctors from OUTSIDE CANADA ( IMG) are best tested by MCCQE. MCCQE is for just passouts and after getting specialisation degree and long practice how a specialist can think of preparing basic subjects again after 10-15 years. Practice can be assessed by allowing them supervised and grading them accordingly without MCCQE it will be more rewarding and practical.
Avatar Karina Caicedo | May 27, 2019
I am a pathologist and i have difficulties in getting jobs in Canada. Also, my husband is a pathologist. Now, we are leaving Canada to the USA since my husband is going to star more training. But it is not easy, because I am an IMG I have to do the America Boards or USLME. fortunately my husband did those exams (took 2 years to pass them). My greatest hope is to get to do the same process my husband did and get a job in the land where the sky is the limit. I think Canada is wasting resources training people that them have to leave, and killing hopes. As an IMG, I will recommend other IMGs to don’t go for specialty since Canada market is a like the waves in the ocean. Next time when a report like this is elaborated please include pathology and indicate the amount of education a pathologist has to do in order to get a job. Also, that American trained IMGs are preferred over the Canadian IMGs because they have something that we don’t have in Canada certified fellowship programs in Canada. Basically, Canadian fellowships are a joke.
Avatar Ian Woolfson | May 11, 2019
Frankly I think it is appalling that so many of our older specialists won't step down (at least 'slow down') to allow younger doctors join the workforce. In my hospital two of us did this so we could bring a young surgeon in. We have a GI physician who is 73 and needs money! Doctors need to save more and spend less so they can slow down or retire earlier. I enjoy walking through our doctors parking lot everyday so I can see the expensive, new, flashy cars the doctors are wasting their money on. Perhaps if the specialists were a bit more careful with their $$ they would be able to bring younger people in sooner. Specialists are too protective of their domain. Lack of operating time and endoscopy time can make it a bit hard to bring in a new surgeon, but the benefits to all (including the patients) outweighs the drop in salary. And their is othe rwork that you can do(Medical legal/ college/ assisting etc). I see this nonsense happening to a well trained family member who is presently doing a locum while she struggles to find a permanent job. Unfortunately she does not want to go to the USA where she would have a great job tomorrow if she wanted.
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