Poor health system planning often to blame for unemployed docs

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

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 14 and 19 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

Note: The title of this article has been amended to enhance clarity (May 9)

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Avatar JOHN GOLBERG | May 10, 2019
Some things never change. As an orthopaedic specialist leaving training a few years back (1979) I was hoping for a community hospital position almost anywhere in Canada. Unless you had a personal connection (old boys network), there was no way to know what communities had the need and the resources. At the same time, recruiters from south of 49 were calling daily. I did not have the resources to wait; I had an instant job waiting in the U.S...I have no regrets but I am sad that after all the" brain drain" this has not been resolved.
Avatar John LeBlanc | May 10, 2019
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.” Our regional hospital is actively searching for interested qualified candidates to fill at least 2 positions to re-boot what was once a thriving service. Basically a turn-key operation, established patient base, provincial referral centre for cochlear implants, in a hospital undergoing a major expansion and in an area known for its great quality of life; the only drawback (not to us) is that we're not in a major urban center.....
Avatar Scott murray | May 10, 2019
This dialogue is long overdue..........So many elephants in the room !...............Echo and support the comments of Scott Cameron..........
Avatar Tim Max | May 9, 2019
Too many older physicians hanging on who are long past their "best before" date and too many chiefs of department/staff who don't feel the need to offer full-time positions to new grads when they could just offer them locum positions and jerk said new grads around as they see fit when it comes time for renewal since they are banking on the idea that these new grads really have nowhere else to go for jobs. That said, new grads need to realize that they are valuable and have a great deal to offer any staff that they join and have some respect for themselves- if they feel that they are getting jerked around, then they need to go somewhere that will appreciate them, which, unfortunately, may not be the major centre that they have their heart set on. There is some to be given from both sides, but I agree with the ENT quoted in the original article who said that the hospitals and potential employers ultimately own the upper hand. The more flexible that new grads can be, the better, but that said, have respect for yourselves. Not every backwater community that happens to have a hospital warrants having a specialist for every service on its staff.
Avatar William Canham | May 9, 2019
For what this comment is worth. Perhaps little...probably never to be read. Residents are very cheap labor for the Canadian Government health system. The senior docs want this inexpensive labor as they can do more cases and consults and get wealthy. Senior docs are in a position to exploit their younger colleagues and get wealthy. Canada is mostly fee for service so residents are essential. Perhaps the system is corrupt. They (The senior docs) don't seem to have an interest if after years of brutal exploitative work these young people (residents) are not employable ... these youth are just expendable. Young Canadians will pick up on this and the profession will not attract highly motivated and smart students. Corruption never ends well. Canada also needs to be concerned as waiting lists get long and service is restricted .......deeper corruption then occurs. On one and only one occasion a wealthy patient told me if I got his case expedited quickly, One of my children's bank accounts( if I provided the number) would have money deposited in that account. I told him I could not do that. However; that is how corruption works throughout the world. The College needs to guard against this. That form of corruption is everyday practice in Ukraine today and perhaps in other jurisdictions also, I will never forget getting up one morning (25 years ago) and while shaving to get ready for work the Premier of Nova Scotia came on the CBC and said the most a Nova Scotia doctor could do for the province of my birth was to leave. Doctors, he said, provided little to the province. I took his advice and moved to the USA and it was the best advice I was ever given. I went to the US where I was welcomed and appreciated. I practiced there for 25 years doing surgery at a level NS would never have supported. Great hospitals and state of the art equipment. Nobody ever sued me or even tried.... an issue Canadian docs often fear. It is not easy to get to the US now so Canadian residents now I understand are just ejected from the system. They after years of exploitation are unemployed. The college should resist this corrupt exploitation of the young. Sad ...... by any ethical standard. William Canham MD FRCS(C) Retired Fellow; FACS (Retired Fellow) and ( former president of my state Surgical Society); FAAOS(Retired Fellow); Former President of the Nova Scotia Medical Society. Happily retired in the US with three well-employed sons .... practicing Orthopedic surgeons and a daughter comfortably employed as an Internist at the Mayo Clinic. Corruption is always endemic but you must always fight it. My view for what is worth. An old man that perhaps has some insight but you can always disagree and perhaps I am wrong. I truly hope I am wrong as I do love Canada. However; be on guard for thee.
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