Politics & Policies, Report

Unemployed Specialist Physicians in Canada / 16 percent of new specialist and subspecialist physicians said they cannot find work; 31 percent pursue further training to become more employable

More than 100 stakeholders in the medical profession are gathering in Ottawa this week to discuss a paradoxical issue affecting health care in Canada: a growing number of doctors without jobs.

The National Summit on Physician Employment, to be held Tuesday and Wednesday, was organized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons in response to a study it released last fall that found 16 per cent of specialist physicians are unable to find work in Canada.

The college’s Danielle Frechette, who organized the summit, said the phenomenon of unemployed or underemployed physicians is particularly vexing as Canadians continue to face long wait times for medical procedures.

“I keep declaring a conflict of interest in this research: I waited over a year for a new hip so I’m really keen to find solutions for all of us,” she told Postmedia News on Monday. “I am not sure that we’re really organizing our resources as optimally as we could so that we could find work for everyone and shorten wait times.”

In fact, a glut of doctors is not among factors cited in the report for the employment challenges facing young specialists, Frechette said.

Rather, a primary culprit is poor economic performance that has affected both investment in hospital resources such as operating rooms and the retirement portfolios of older physicians, who are staying in the workforce longer.

Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor. Read the whole story at  More doctors without jobs as Canadians face long wait times.

The Report

In 2010, several of Canada’s national medical specialty societies reported to the Royal College that a growing number of specialist physicians were unemployed or under-employed. The Royal College undertook research into this highly complex problem, seeking to determine if unemployment and under-employment are the simple and inevitable byproducts of an oversupply of physicians — or if other, more subtle factors come into play. Capture d’écran 2014-02-19 à 09.19.48

This report presents the findings of our research to date — most notably the state of employment of new specialists and subspecialists certified in 2011 and 2012 and the key drivers and influencers behind their employment challenges. (The report delves into the employment issues of specialist physicians only and does not delve into any employment issue that may affect family physicians.)

The Royal College has unique access to specialist physicians in Canada and, as such, was able to collect a unique set of data to inform this report. The Royal College surveyed newly certified specialists and subspecialists online for this this study, and interviewed more than 50 persons with first-hand, in-depth knowledge of the issues who provided important new insights. It is our hope that this study will spark additional research and data collection into the phenomenon of specialist unemployment and under- employment so that health care stakeholders can work together to identify and address the countless factors that contribute to this growing challenge.

What our research revealed

Sixteen percent of new specialist and subspecialist physicians said they cannot find work; 31 percent pursue further training to become more employable.

Data from the Royal College’s 2011 and 2012 employment surveys reveal that employment issues extend across multiple medical specialties. Among those who responded to the surveys of new specialists and subspecialists, 208 (16%) reported being unable to secure employment, compared to 7.1% of all Canadians as of August 2013. Of these, 122 stated they were or would be pursuing further training and 86 reported that they were unemployed and without a training post. Also of note is the significant number of new specialists and subspecialists — 414 (31.2%) — who chose not to enter the job market but instead pursued further subspecialty or fellowship training because they believed such training would make them more employable.

Discussion

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