Canada is home to 92,173 physicians, with 242 physicians attending to every 100,000 patients. As a country with a population of over 38 million, there’s a significant shortage in the ranks of professionally active doctors. The COVID-19 pandemic aggravated healthcare systems all over the world. In Canada, physicians sought professional help for mental health concerns and substance, increasing by 26% since 2017.
As stifling the pandemic is to healthcare workers, medical professionals in Canada also struggle with the strict licensure and qualification assessments. Doctors with long years of experience are still waiting to qualify to practice medicine, especially those that are trained outside Canada. 13,000 internationally trained doctors in Canada are not practicing medicine or involved in the field of healthcare at all.
To become a doctor in Canada, you should be clear about your goals and priorities. The process is long but pays off in the end as you get to treat and help patients heal. Keep on reading to learn more about the steps to becoming a doctor in Canada.
Steps to Become a Doctor in Canada
1. Accomplish your undergraduate degree.
Kickstart your way to medical school by accomplishing your undergraduate degree. This is the first step to becoming a doctor in Canada. Medical schools don’t require applicants to have graduated from a certain degree program.
However, it is highly recommended that you complete a science-based degree, or at least earned credits in science courses. Foundational courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and math will make your transition to medical school more manageable.
2. Pass the MCAT.
In the United States, you have to pass the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) before getting accepted for medical school. In Canada, not all medical schools require the MCAT. Universities such as the University of Ottawa and Northern Ontario School of Medicine do not require applicants to pass the MCAT.
If you want to broaden your choices, passing the MCAT is a good idea. Look up the requirements of Canadian medical schools to know which section of the admission test they specifically assess your performance in.
3. Create your OMSAS login.
The Ontario Universities’ Application Centre (OUAC) processes student applications for the 6 universities situated in Ontario. Ontario medical schools use a centralized service called the Ontario Medical School Application Service (OMSAS). Through OMSAS, students can easily determine eligibility for application, admission requirements, and qualification status.
The next step to becoming a doctor in Canada is to secure your OMSAS login, as this is the key to your medical school application. Pay close attention to important dates for submission, payments, etc. Every university has its own list of requirements and processes for admissions. Communicate with the university administration to ensure you submit all the necessary documents in OMSAS. Usually, these include transcript records, reference letters, proof of landed immigrant status (for non-Canadian citizens), and indigent status proof (for Canadian citizens).
4. Qualify and enroll in medical school.
Despite the shortage of practicing doctors, the acceptance rate of Canadian medical schools sits low at 20%. Admissions are highly competitive, and universities prioritize Canadian citizens and residents.
Some universities only accept students from the same province, while some accept international students who graduated from universities and colleges they are affiliated with. Other universities do not accept international student applicants at all. International students are accepted in the following universities:
5. Complete 4 years of medical school.
For the first 2 years of medical school, you will be taught the theoretical concepts of various subfields of medicine. Your last 2 years will be spent completing training and clerkship. Much like a residency, students will be working with real patients. This is also your chance to explore the different medical subfields and identify which subfield you will formally practice after graduation.
6. Pass the MCCQE Part I.
15 months before you graduate from medical school, you are eligible to apply for the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part I. This next step to becoming a doctor in Canada is accomplished over a day, distributed remotely to exam takers in lieu of COVID-19 guidelines and protocol. In passing the MCCQE, you qualify for possessing relevant knowledge and skills expected from a graduating student of medical school.
The MCCQE Part 1 determines your eligibility to earn your Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC). This license is essential for you to practice medicine in Canada.
7. Apply and complete your residency.
In becoming a doctor in Canada, the next step would be to apply for residency. A residency program typically lasts around 3 to 7 years. Residency applications in Canada are processed through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS). To pursue your residency or medical training in Canada, you must first apply through CaRMS.
Applicants choose which residency program they want to complete and the residency program director they want to work with. This lets CaRMS determine how to match applicants to the best-fitting programs.
On the other hand, if you completed your education in medicine outside Canada, you are considered an International Medical Graduate (IMG). Before applying for residency, you must first pass the National Assessment Collaboration Examination (NAC). The NAC is a standardized examination testing the knowledge and capabilities of an IMG to proceed with medical residency in Canada.
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8. Earn your medical certifications.
With the cancellation of the MCCQE Part II in 2021, medical students who passed the MCCQE Part I are also eligible to be recognized as Licentiates of the Medical Council of Canada.
During the last few years of your residency, or after completion, you can further take examinations to earn certifications. Medical certifications in Canada include the Certificate of the College of Family Physicians (CCFP) and the Certificate of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. These certifications solidify your medical knowledge and expertise. These are also required to ensure your full licensure, in accordance with the Canadian Standard.
If you are an IMG, you can take the MCCQE Part I prior to moving to Canada. This will give you a head start in earning your Licentiate status.
The journey to becoming a medical doctor in Canada requires a lot of studying, passing exams, and qualifying for certifications. A career in medicine, especially within the jurisdiction of Canada, truly tests the faith and patience of students. Despite the high living standards, Canadian healthcare forces have been overworked due to a shortage of professionals, and now with the ever-looming presence of COVID-19.
It is best to start early and recognize your calling to practice medicine in Canada as soon as you enter your senior year in high school. Canada’s preference for homegrown professionals greatly affects your chances of studying medicine in one of its highly selective, yet affordable universities. The pressure to become a doctor is overwhelming, but it is worth all the sacrifices if you can help even just one patient in recovering from their illness.
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I hope that you found this article on how to become a doctor in Canada informative and helpful. Make sure to also check out the Available Programs in Canada!