Canadian Medical Association

Dr. Robert Tremblay, MDCM, CFPC
Assistant Chief of Staff
Chisasibi Hospital

It’s not uncommon to hear residents talk about marriage and having children. Residency corresponds with the age when family planning is becoming an increasingly important issue. However, the timing of these momentous occasions can be particularly tricky in the chaotic life of a physician.

In general, everyone has their own priorities, and you should not rush into marriage or children if you are not ready. Nevertheless, my own personal experience is that both can be very rewarding during residency and it is not always necessary to put them off until you have become “more established.” Here are some things to consider.

Maternity Top-Up Programs for Residents by Province:

British Columbia – 85% first 17 weeks
Alberta – 90% for 17 weeks
Saskatchewan – 90% first 15 weeks
Manitoba – 60% first 17 weeks
Ontario – 84% first 27 weeks
Quebec – 95% first 21 weeks
Maritimes – 75% first 2 weeks then 93% next 15 weeks
Newfoundland – N/A

Starting practice can be very time consuming. As you learn to manage your own patients without the guidance of a supervisor and learn the intricacies of managing an office, the idea of getting married and having children can be daunting. You also need to consider coverage of your practice while you are away on your dream honeymoon or parental leave. Yes, you can try to organize coverage amongst your group or have a locum replace you, but depending on your province, size of your group, type of work and availability of locuming physicians, it is not always easy, or even possible.

In contrast, residency programs are designed to be flexible. They function whether you are present or not, such as when you leave for two months on a rural rotation or go to work in another centre. When taking an extra week off for your honeymoon or an extended period for maternity leave, you can rest assured that your patients will be cared for and you do not need to worry about any of the administrative burden.

Another consideration is your income while you are on parental leave. In general, most provincial programs cover your salary to 55% for 15 weeks of maternity leave and 35 weeks of parental leave (maximum insured salary of $51,300). So, whether you are a PGY2 making $60,000 or a full-time physician making $200,000, you would receive $543 per week. Thus, the potential revenue lost as a staff is significantly greater than as a resident. These figures also exclude the top-up programs that are provided by residency programs and the benefits such as medical insurance which you would continue to receive.