5 Things to Know About Practicing Psychiatry in Canada

Kristen Campbell
Mar. 12, 2021
9-minute read

While psychiatry got its name back in the 1800s, it wasn’t until 1972 that the CMA recognized psychiatry as a medical specialty in Canada. Thankfully today mental health is recognized as being just as important as (and very much linked to) physical health.  

Happily too, three-quarters of psychiatrists in Canada report feeling satisfied with their professional lives. In fact, psychiatry consistently ranks among the top 10 happiest medical specialties!

In this article, we explore 5 reasons why psychiatry is such a rewarding specialty to choose in Canada: 

1. Flexible Hours

Unlike specializations that require long hours in the operating room or the ER, psychiatrists can often enjoy a more flexible schedule depending on the practice setting. According to the CMA, just over half of psychiatrists work in either a private practice setting or in either full-time or part-time academia. These clinical settings offer more flexibility for setting your own schedule. Still, psychiatrists in Canada work an average 46.6 hours per week, which is lower than many other specialties, but still clocks in at almost 10 hours longer than the “average” workweek of 37.5 hours. 

For psychiatrists not in academia or private practice, opportunities for flexible hours still exist. For example, many inpatient psychiatrist positions offer shift work or hospitalist hours, such as a 7 day on/7 day off schedule. This allows hospital patients access to a psychiatrist for more hours in a day, and also allows you more time for yourself. 

2. Remote Work Options

Since the nature of psychiatry generally requires little (or no) physical examination, psychiatrists are uniquely suited to take advantage of the trend towards virtual practice. Some psychiatrists have even been able to take their entire practice virtual, which offers more flexibility for both you and your patients. Keep in mind that there are certain drawbacks to offering solely virtual services, including missing important visual cues and privacy concerns. However, the benefits of virtual psychiatry tend to outweigh the potential drawbacks:

  • Improved accessibility for rural/remote and less mobile patients
  • Reduced time and effort with no travel time for busy patients
  • Lessened stigma or embarrassment for hesitant patients
  • Potential for increased affordability with fewer overhead costs for providers

3. Lower Risk of Burnout

Recent studies have found that psychiatrists are at a lower risk for burnout than general practitioners and surgeons, and also report a higher quality of life overall. While it’s true that psychiatry specialists often assume a high emotional burden and complex cases, the other benefits of the profession help to offset the stressors. For instance, psychiatrist may enjoy more control over hours, types of patients treated and practice setting than other specialties. 

Of course, psychiatrists also tend to feel very rewarded by what they do. While many doctors see medicine as a calling, that may be even more true in psychiatry, which by its nature is different from many other specialties. Psychiatrists often enjoy long-term relationships with patients and can see the benefits of progress over time first-hand.

4. High Demand

According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association, demand for psychiatrists exceeds the supply all across Canada. Thanks to improved treatment models and the destigmatization of many mental illnesses in recent years, the average number of patients seen by psychiatrists continues to grow. Child psychiatrists in particular have a sharp contrast between demand and supply, and since the population of psychiatrists as a whole is aging – with over half the profession over 55 – there is plenty of room to fill the gap.

The benefit for psychiatrists is that with demand comes choice. Psychiatrists can often create their ideal roles and take advantage of a variety of flexible working opportunities:

  • Locum roles that involve exciting travel opportunities
  • Control over scheduling 
  • Choices in location, (note there is a wide disparity in the average psychiatry salary across provinces)
  • Remote work options
  • Opportunities to focus the practice on specific areas of interest or expertise

5. Psychiatry is an Emerging Field

What we know about the brain is still evolving, and so is the practice of psychiatry. According to recent CMA statistics, 27% of psychiatrists work in an academic health sciences centre, a larger proportion than many other specialties. Aging populations, scientific and technological discoveries and environmental factors such as technology use or the change in working environments can all contribute to a diverse and ever changing psychiatric environment with changing patient needs. From emerging fields like geriatric and sports psychology to neuroimmune disorders and advances in pharmacological treatments, psychiatry is a young and exciting field of medicine, and one that offers psychiatrists plenty of room to grow throughout a career. 

Whether you choose to work in private practice, academic medicine, or a hospital setting, it’s an exciting time to practice psychiatry in Canada. With greater flexibility in terms of where and how you practice, surging demand for your services and high levels of professional satisfaction, psychiatrists can look forward to a career that is both satisfying and meaningful.

This article offers general information only and is not intended as legal, financial or other professional advice. A professional advisor should be consulted regarding your specific situation. While information presented is believed to be factual and current, its accuracy is not guaranteed and it should not be regarded as a complete analysis of the subjects discussed. All expressions of opinion reflect the judgment of the author(s) as of the date of publication and are subject to change. No endorsement of any third parties or their advice, opinions, information, products or services is expressly given or implied by RBC Ventures Inc. or its affiliates.

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Kristen Campbell
Kristen Campbell is a content writer with experience writing for technology, real estate, healthcare, and higher education. She holds a BA from McMaster University and a B-Comm. from the University of Calgary, and is passionate about creating content that’s both educational and engaging.
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