Canadian Medical Association

More than 6,700 physicians took part in this year’s national CMA Physician Workforce Survey, with 91% supporting a system of national licensure that would allow them to practise in all Canadian provinces and territories — believing it would greatly improve access to care for patients.

Read the 2019 Physician Workforce Survey

The physicians surveyed said they would seek out the following opportunities if a national licensure system was implemented:

  • 45% would do a locum
  • 39% would offer virtual care to patients in another jurisdiction
  • 30% would practise in multiple jurisdictions on an ongoing basis
  • 42% would practise temporarily in a rural or remote area in another jurisdiction

Support was strongest in the Atlantic provinces, particularly in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador, where 84% of physicians said they are ‘very supportive’ of a national physician license. The numbers are not surprising, given the four Atlantic colleges of physicians and surgeons are already working together to streamline their approaches to licensing.

This strong support for national licensure also reinforces the work of the Virtual Care Task Force. Co-led by the CMA, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada and the College of Family Physicians of Canada, the task force has spent the past six months working to identify the changes needed to support virtual care and allow physicians to deliver care within and across provincial/territorial boundaries. Its report is expected in early 2020.

Digital health and other results

The 2019 survey also showed great improvements in the use of digital health tools. Physicians reported that more than 22% of patients can view their health record online, up from 8% in 2017. When it comes to communication, close to one-fifth of physicians said they allow patients to consult them via email or text message.

Professional satisfaction has remained consistent over the past two years, with nearly three-quarters of physicians indicating being very satisfied or satisfied with their career in medicine. Satisfaction with work-life integration, however, declined slightly, with 48% of respondents being satisfied compared to 53% in 2017, while 30% said they were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied, compared to 26% in 2017.

Physician workload was another area that saw a small decline. Physicians indicated working an average of 49.5 hours per week compared with 50.5 hours reported in 2017. When it comes to on-call hours, 69% of physicians provided services in 2019 compared to 73% in 2017. On-call hours were highest in Newfoundland and Labrador (146 hours per month) and lowest in Ontario (92 hours per month).

The findings in the 2019 CMA Workforce Survey provide valuable insights into how physicians’ work today, are used by the CMA and other stakeholders to track trends in the physician workforce, develop policy on issues such as national licensure, physician health and virtual care and inform health human resource planning at the regional and national levels.

The CMA Physician Workforce Survey collects information from physicians on a wide range of topics relating to their practices in Canada. The 2019 version included questions on workload, practice settings, national licensure, use of information technology and satisfaction.

The survey was open from March 8 to May 5, 2019. Of the 52,633 members we can confirm received the survey, 6,762 — or 13% — responded. The survey is accurate to within 1.2 percentage points, 19 times out of 20, had all physicians in Canada been polled.

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