After increasing for years, the number of unmatched Canadian medical graduates has hit a recent low, according to new data from the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).
This year, 98 students did not receive a residency placement — down from 169 in 2018. With millions of Canadians without a family doctor, or facing long waits for specialist appointments, it’s welcome news that more students can continue their training and reach this critical milestone on their way to becoming practising physicians.
One of the factors contributing to this year’s lower rate is that more positions were made available. The Ontario government funded an additional 53 one-time residency positions in the province, and the Canadian Armed Forces also sponsored family medicine placements for unmatched students interested in enlisting.
The number of unmatched students had been increasing dramatically over the past decade — a concerning trend for the CMA and many physicians across Canada. At the CMA’s Regional Member Forums this winter, 75% of participants in the room reported knowing a Canadian medical graduate who’d previously gone unmatched through the CaRMS process.
“The fact is we’re losing bright, young physicians who are willing and able to offer quality care and we have patients who need them,” said CMA President Dr. Gigi Osler, speaking to medical students in April. “So how do we break down the barriers to ensuring every physician can flourish, and every Canadian has access to care?”
Dr. Osler made the comments at the Ontario Medical Students Association’s annual lobby day, which focused on the matching issue. Sharing an overview of the CMA’s advocacy efforts, she highlighted key partnerships with Resident Doctors of Canada, the Canadian Federation of Medical Students and others to push for change, including calling for more provincial and territorial funding for residency spaces.
While raising awareness and advocating for change has yielded some positive results, she acknowledged that more needs to be done to ensure every Canadian medical graduate can match. She applauded the students for getting involved and working with the provincial government toward possible solutions.
In addition to its advocacy, the CMA supported more than 1,000 medical students through this year’s CaRMS Interview Prep Program.
Participants took part in mock interviews and received constructive feedback and guidance on how best to prepare for the CaRMS process. The instructors were resident physicians who had recently gone through the process and were able to share tips and tricks they learned along the way.
The resident mentors were incredibly helpful, and it was a great way to start preparing early on in the process and get a sense of what the format of the interview would be like. Would highly recommend. — Participant, 2019 CaRMS Interview Prep Program
The prep program is free for CMA members and is held each year from September to January in locations across Canada. For more information, visit https://www.cma.ca/carms-interview-prep-program or watch the video below.