Starting the Job Hunt: How to get a job as a doctor

Courtney Marie L.
Sep. 3, 2020
10-minute read

Before jumping on google and aimlessly looking for available jobs in your specialty it’s a good idea to start thinking about what you want, what type of job you’d like, what’s available to you, and then start applying.

Now is the time to reach out, make connections and see what’s out there. Doctors in Canada are in demand, even though you may not always feel like it, rest assured there’s no shortage of jobs.

If this is your first job hunt and you’re wondering how to get a job as a doctor, you might even be feeling imposter syndrome, as if you don’t have the abilities or the right experience to get the job you want. This is not true, don’t doubt yourself. Use this article to set your standards high and get an overview of what’s available.

Remember why you chose a career in medicine and take the time to go through the different opportunities out there and find something you’re amped up for!

Getting Started

One of the most effective ways to get a job as a doctor is to start building a network of people who can help you with your job search. It’s a good idea to join relevant groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and try interacting with other physicians who’re doing the job that you’re dreaming of. Take some time to research the job requirements in the region where you want to work and develop a plan on how to get a job as a doctor in that particular place.

Here are a few ways you could do this:

  • Broaden your search and look for jobs that can help you build your network
  • Look for a mentor in the field such as a retired physician who would give you some words of wisdom about the industry and probably introduce you to their professional network.
  • Find and join healthcare-related clubs that help with networking and job search.
  • Attend job fairs and keep an eye out on the employment sections of your local newspapers.

How to Figure out What Your Ideal JOB is

Even though there’s a lot of jobs out there that doesn’t mean that all of them are desirable, so it’s really important to create a list of what you really want. You don’t have to write it out on a full page – a sticky note can be enough – just make sure you outline what you want.

Don’t settle for the first opportunity that’s handed to you. Knowing what’s most important to you will help you land the job of your dreams. Since more than half of our lives are spent at work, you really want to keep that in mind and remember that this is a bigger decision than you may initially think. To some degree it really determines the quality of life for both you and your family. 

Before you start thinking about how to get a job as a doctor, start by jotting down all the characteristics of your dream job. For example:

  • How many patients do you want to see weekly
  • Where do you want to work (hospital, clinic, etc.)
  • How many hours a week
  • In a small, large, or big organization?
  • Are you willing to Locum? (a substitute-doctor)

The more details you can add, the better. It might change over time but the idea is that you use this list throughout the application process so you don’t waste your time applying for something you don’t really want.

Use your ‘ideal list’ as a way to quickly decide if:

  1. A) the job is worth applying for or
  2. B) the offer is worth taking.

Take the time to find something worthy.

To Locum or Not

Locuming is when you temporarily substitute, to either replace a specific physician (like a substitute teacher), or to help with patient overflow. Locum tenens is the latin phrase that literally means “to hold the place of”.

Why should I consider a locum position?

There are a lot of reasons why you should consider working as a locum. Conventionally, locums are quite common for physicians who are in their first 5 years of practice, or for physicians who are near retirement. But this mindset is changing and many physicians are locuming for a better work-life balance. It’s great for new families, offers more unique practice experiences and the ability to choose when and what type of work you’d like to do (demand is high)!

Here are some of the best benefits:

  •  It’s the best way to trial out a practice before committing to a permanent position.
  • You are a “freelance” doctor and have flexibility and control over your schedule. So you can be as busy or as free as you want to be. If you need 2 weeks off, you just block them off on your calendar.
  • Minimal administration – you do not have any of the responsibilities that come with running a practice (hiring/firing MOAs, ordering supplies, etc.).
  • It’s a great way to see the country/travel while working.

Obviously, there are some downsides, like constantly seeing patients that are unknown to you, which means it takes extra time to familiarize yourself with the patient during a visit. Or having to acquaint yourself with new office staff, new workflows, and potentially a new EMR.

 Understandably, a lot of physicians fear the aspect of constantly looking for new gigs and moving around – but remember there’s no shortage of jobs. When we spoke to Haneen, one of the co-founders of loccummunity (a popular job site for locum work), she told us that the demand for locum work is so high a physician can practically book themselves two years in advance!

Her main advice: Know how to negotiate. Here’s her list of things you absolutely must ask before accepting a job offer.

  • Dates/hours of coverage, and whether it includes any hospital patients or on-call.
  • Rate of compensation, may vary for different types of work (e.g. private forms patient visits).
  • Have a contract that clearly documents the above, and clearly states the clinic is responsible for any follow up necessary on tests/referrals made while you are there.

If this is something you can picture yourself doing, check out our ultimate locum guide for more tips on how to get started.

Understand Canadian Payment Schemes

Canadian doctors get compensated in a variety of different ways. Depending on how you practice medicine (and where), your income may be variable and complex.

For example, about 70% of doctors in Canada work under a fee-for-service (FFS) model. Some may receive a salary, while others get reimbursed under new alternative plans. These models also differ between provinces and territories. Knowing how you’ll be paid as a physician is important as you weigh your career and practice options.

Finding your dream job as a doctor starts from the day you decide to pursue medicine. The more dedicated and clear you are and the sooner you start building your network, the better your chances get to find a great job as a doctor in Canada. 

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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Courtney Marie L
Writer and editor with a demonstrated history of working in the Canadian healthcare sector and the publishing industry. Skilled in writing, editing, proofreading, Spanish to English translation, and teaching English as a second language. Strong communications professional with a Bachelor of Arts in Geography and Political Science from the University of Manitoba.
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