Sixteen per cent of newly trained specialists said they couldnat find work when surveyed over a two-year period by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada. This number was compared to a national unemployment rate of 7.1 per cent when the report was being prepared in late summer. In B.C., the number of unemployed specialists was slightly higher than the national average at 16.5 per cent. The findings are counter-intuitive, given patient complaints about accessing timely care and surgery. aNever in my medical career have I even heard of unemployed doctors, until now, so this comes as a real surprise,a said Dr. William Cunningham, president of the B.C. Medical Association. Cunningham has been practising medicine since 1986 and works in a hospital emergency department on Vancouver Island. The report doesnat address the issue of whether there are too many specialists for the Canadian health care system, in which operating room time and budgets are fixed. But it makes it clear that doctors are competing for resources, including operating rooms, hospital beds and money to pay their fees. The report also pinpoints reasons why newly certified specialists are having trouble finding work: older doctors are delaying retirement; established surgeons are protecting their precious (often only one day a week) operating room time so young doctors arenat getting the hospital/surgical positions they covet; and a lack of cohesion in medical resource planning and coordination between medical schools, governments and hospital or health care authorities. As well, there are relatively new categories of health professionals encroaching on doctorsa territory, such as advanced practice nurses, nurse practitioners and physician assistants. Respondents to the survey were graduates of Canadaas 17 medical schools and/or Canadian residency training programs in fields such as cardiac surgery, neurosurgery, nuclear medicine, ophthalmology, radiation oncology, urology, critical care, gastroenterology, general surgery, hematology and medical microbiology.
Unemployed Doctors? 1 In 6 New Specialists Can’t Find Work, Study Says
Surgeons and others who require expensive infrastructure like operating rooms to do their jobs, are often hired by hospitals or health regions. A cardiac surgeon, for instance, costs a hospital $1.5 million a year, though the doctors income is only part of that, said Ms. Frechette. Physicians say the job market has been tightened in part because the expected wave of retirements has yet to materialize, with many older doctors deciding to keep working after investment losses. Sometimes, as well, the jobs are out there, but might require a new specialist to relocate across the country, not always easy if they have working spouses and children, said Mr. MacLean. Yet in areas where demand for doctors is still high, budget-constrained health institutions are often not hiring the additional specialists recently churned out, medical leaders say. I dont think there was downstream planning as to How do we accommodate them once theyre finished? said Dr. Johnson The problems can also be traced back to medical schools, where there is scant science behind deciding how many positions to allot to each field, said Dr. John Haggie, president of the Canadian Medical Association. We dont know as a nation or a province or a jurisdiction what kind of physician population we actually need going forward, he said. As a result, people often take a fairly opportunistic, almost random career path, and end up with skills that are fairly focused and difficult to accommodate where they want to be. Successfully predicting needs is not necessarily easy, given the five-year lag before a medical-school graduate finishes specialty training.
Demand high but medical specialists not finding work in Canada
Lewis suggested the cycle of training specialists which typically takes about nine years is out of sync with the cycle of assessing future medical system requirements. “Forecasting health human resource needs more than three or four or five years out is a fool’s game, because medical science changes, health needs can change, technology can change and so on.” But Frechette said there are some low hanging fruit problems that should be relatively easy to address. For instance, her study noted there are jobs going for the asking. And yet while it seems inconceivable in the era of Craigslist and LinkedIn, doctors are having a hard time finding these “help wanted” ads. “Our research did discover that there are a lot of people who can’t find jobs, including orthopedic surgeons who would gladly go to where the jobs are, but they don’t know where they are,” she said. Lewis said there are some other adjustments the system should consider. One is shortening the period of time it takes to train a specialist, which would allow planners to adjust the course more quickly if it appeared that a glut of doctors was forming. “If your whole life is going to be doing hip and knee replacements, I think one can question whether it should take nine years of training,” he said. Another suggestion involves sharing the wealth. He said it isn’t uncommon to hear of small communities where patients have to wait to see a specialist but the three specialists in town aren’t keen to let a fourth hang a shingle. “I think the one thing that’s clear is there won’t be a spontaneous solution that employs all of these new doctors effectively.
additional resources http://www.huffingtonpost.ca/2013/10/10/unemployed-doctors-canada_n_4074976.html