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In tightening market, job advice for residents, students scarce: survey

Information on the medical job market and about ways to search for work appear to be in short supply for both medical students and residents, a new report states.

The report from the CMA's Canadian Collaborative Centre for Physician Resources (C3PR) is based on results from the 2012 National Physician Survey (NPS), and comes amidst growing concern about a tightening job market for doctors nearing the end of their residency training.

"When preparing for their careers, future physicians generally appear satisfied with their training, but fewer are satisfied with the degree of counselling available to them with respect to career planning," the report says.

For instance, in the latest NPS only 14% of residents in specialty programs and 34% of family medicine trainees said they had received information on how to search for employment during their training.

The CMA has already called for action. At its 2011 annual meeting, General Council said the CMA should place "special emphasis on helping medical students and residents make informed career choices by providing job-trend and other career-planning resources."

Meanwhile, the Canadian Association of Internes and Residents has responded by launching TIPS, its Transition Into Practice Service that is designed to provide recruiting assistance and advice to residents.

The NPS results also pointed to a distinct lack of "formal counselling" about the employment situation within different specialties. For instance, only 30% of family medicine residents and 21% of specialty residents received such advice. Informal counselling on employment prospects was much more common, with 67% of specialty residents receiving such advice.

Among all residents, only 12% had received formal counselling on how to apply for jobs within their field. One in four - 24% - had been counselled formally on the employment situation within their specialty.

The NPS results also indicate that stress related to the employment situation extends to undergraduate medical students. Two-thirds of student respondents (68%) said future employment possibilities were already "very" or "somewhat" stressful issues for them, but formal career counselling to relieve this stress appears limited. Only 6% of fourth-year students reported receiving formal counselling on the employment outlook in different specialties.

CMA President Anna Reid says medical organizations are now paying much more attention to the post-graduate training/employment issue. "It has come up at most of our recent annual meetings, and we're devoting an entire session to it when General Council meets in August," she said. "We expect some policy direction to emerge from that."

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