Issue highlights need for national health care workforce planning
OTTAWA, Oct. 10, 2013 /CNW/ - A groundbreaking study by the Royal
College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada shows an increasing number
of newly certified specialist physicians and surgeons in Canada cannot
find jobs relevant to their skills and extensive training, despite the
country's lengthy patient wait times for surgery and medical specialist
"After many years of hearing about physician shortages, pockets of
evidence have emerged in recent years indicating a growing segment of
medical specialists and subspecialists can't find jobs," said Danielle
Fréchette, the study's Lead Investigator and the Royal College's
Executive Director, Office of Health Policy, External Relations and
Communications. "We decided this serious situation warranted a much
closer examination to determine the scope of the issue and the
The two-year national study, titled Too many, too few doctors? What's really behind Canada's unemployed
specialists?, consisted of 50 in-depth interviews with physicians, hospital leaders,
health system experts, residents and others, as well as an online
survey of newly certified specialist physicians in 2011 and 2012.
Of the 4,233 new specialists and subspecialists who were certified in
Canada during 2011 and 2012, 1,371 (32.4%) responded to the survey. A
total of 208 respondents (16%) indicated that, after spending at least
eight years training to be medical specialists, they were unable to
secure employment. Of those, nine per cent were able to secure
additional training, such as through paid fellowship positions, but
seven per cent reported that they remained unemployed.
Another 414 respondents (31.2%) indicated they chose not to enter the
job market, opting to pursue further training because they believed it
would make them more employable.
The study also indicated employment challenges appeared to increase in
2012 over 2011. Respondents who reported having employment issues
increased by four percentage points (from 13% to 17%) for specialists
from 2011 to 2012, and by six percentage points for subspecialists
(from 15% to 21%).
The national study identified three often intertwined factors that
contribute to new specialists not being able to find employment. The
main factor is the economy, where a weakened stock market has forced
many physicians to delay their retirement and hospital resources that
physicians need to practice, such as operating rooms and hospital beds,
have been reduced to control costs. This has directly impacted
The evolution of the health care system was identified as a second
factor, with issues such as the emergence of interprofessional models
of care that rely less on physicians, and a misalignment between health
workforce planning, health care delivery models and residency intake
The third factor is personal and context-specific issues, such as a lack
of adequate career and job search counseling, and the fact that new
medical specialists are older today than in the past and have families,
often making it difficult for them to relocate.
"Much more research and consultation need to be done to ensure we
understand correctly the dynamics of this new challenge," said Dr.
Andrew Padmos, Chief Executive Officer of the Royal College.
"Ultimately, we would like to see the creation of a national bureau or
think tank that would foster research and inform pan-Canadian and
cross-jurisdictional health workforce planning."
"In February, the Royal College will take another step in that
direction," Padmos said, "by hosting a national summit where
stakeholders from across Canada's health care system will share their
workforce research, perspectives, ideas and results to help find
lasting solutions to this important issue."
The full report Too many, too few doctors? What's really behind Canada's unemployed
specialists? is available online at www.royalcollege.ca/physician_employment.
About the Royal College
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (http://www.royalcollege.ca) is the home of specialty care in Canada, setting the setting the
standards for postgraduate medical education, supporting the continuing
professional development of 44,000 members, and shaping health system
SOURCE: Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
For further information:
Jean-Paul Brasseur, tel. (613) 830-4766, firstname.lastname@example.org