A residency is one of the most important parts of any medical student’s journey to becoming a licensed, practicing physician. Unfortunately for many students across Canada, residencies are growing scarce, even as many patients across the country are struggling to find doctors to care for them. What’s happening in Canada, and what can be done to change it?
News from the Canadian Resident Matching Service
After completing medical school, aspiring doctors must complete a residency, which is essentially hands-on training under the watchful eye of licensed healthcare professionals. Not all Canadian students are being given the opportunity, even after graduating their medical programs. The Canadian Resident Matching Service, or CaRMS, is the organization responsible for matching resident doctors with training facilities. In April 2018, the organization said that 115 of this year’s graduating students could not find placement. This number is up from 99 in 2017 and 77 in 2016. Failing to complete between two and seven years of residency means they cannot receive a license to practice medicine.
A Devastating Blow
Medical school is one of the most difficult undertakings imaginable. Sleepless nights, countless hours of study, and days counting pennies due to the sheer cost of attending school create a great deal of stress for students. Imagine completing an entire program successfully, feeling incredibly relieved as a result, only to find out that you cannot complete the final leg of your journey through no fault of your own. For these 115 hopeful students, it was a devastating blow, and it can all be blamed on the declining number of available residency spots across Canada.
Why Are There Fewer Residency Spots?
Henry Annan, a fourth-year graduate at Dalhousie University, is also the president of the Canadian Federation of Medical Students. In response to the increasing percentage of students who are not matched with residency programs, the group is now lobbying governments in individual provinces to give hospitals and other facilities more funding so that they can add the residency programs. Per Amman, provinces have been cutting funding for a few years, and those that haven’t cut funding simply haven’t been willing to keep up with the growing number of medical school graduates. Of course, mismatches between residency specialties that students wanted and the residency specialties available is also a factor.
Changes in Ontario
Ontario’s government recently announced that it would add 53 extra spots to help fulfill the needs of recent graduates in that province who did not receive a placement this year, but these spots don’t come without requirements. Students who accept them will be asked to sign a contract obligating them to work in an underserved area of the province for two years after their residencies are completed. Though it is an excellent step for now, it won’t work in the long run, and eventually, positions in the underserved communities will run out, as well.
As if this weren’t startling enough, the fact that patients across Canada struggle to find doctors makes it even more puzzling. People want to be doctors and need to complete the last step of the journey, and people need those doctors – but the Canadian government needs to allow for more residency spots in order to fulfill either of these needs.