Practicing Medicine in British Columbia, Canada

British Columbia, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Canadian Rocky Mountains, is any outdoor adventurer’s dream. In this province spotlight, we review medical registration/licensure, finding a job, and immigration. For general information on practicing medicine in Canada, please read Practicing in Canada: A General Fact Sheet.

Registration/Medical Licensure

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia (CPSBC) oversees medical registration/licensure and the process and requirements are specific to each specialty.  For most specialties the CPSBC requires 5 years of postgraduate training; residency and fellowship training contribute to this requirement. Most ACGME programs are shorter than their Canadian counterparts, but the requirement above is not always rigid. In many cases you can prove equivalency to Canadian training through US board certification in your specialty and then later by taking the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons Canada Exams (RCPSC) – the Canadian boards.

American Board of Family Medicine diplomates may be granted certification by the College of Family Physicians of Canada without further examination. They can directly apply for full registration.

For all other specialists, US-trained applicants will first obtain a provisional registration and then advance to full registration.

Provisional Registration

Provisional Registration is for international graduates who have a medical degree, have completed postgraduate training, have obtained certification in their specialty, and have completed the MCCQE Part 1 Exam. USMLE Steps 1,2,3, FLEX, NBME, and COMLEX exams are recognized in lieu of the MCQEs. You must demonstrate English language proficiency by showing that the primary language of medical education and patient care was in English.

With a provisional license you can practice medicine, with supervision, limitations, and conditions for 2 years and then undergo a competency assessment. You may be limited to underserved areas of practice in BC. Applicants for provisional licensure need to obtain a “ruling letter” from the RCPSC deeming them eligible for the Royal College exams (Canadian Boards) before the CPSBC approves a provisional license. If you are eligible for the Royal College exams, you will have five years within which to take the Royal College exams in your specialty

Full Registration

Full registration requires certification by the Royal College of Physicians & Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC). To qualify for this exam, you must first submit an ACGME training assessment. It can take 6-8 months to complete this assessment prior to obtaining a “ruling letter” deeming your eligibility for the royal college exams. If you are deemed eligible, you can take the royal college exams within the next 3 years.

Key Components for Registration

These can all be done in parallel.

  1. CPSBC Pre-Screen Assessment: Create an account with HealthMatchBC, a free health professional recruiting service funded by the government. They will facilitate a personalized pre-screening with CPSBC to ensure that you meet the criteria to be eligible for provisional registration in BC. This involves submitting copies of your medical degree, post-graduate training certificates, detailed outline of residency rotations (dates, duration, location, discipline), other certificates including USMLE 1/2/3 certificate, board certification, current licenses, and reference letters. This preliminary assessment for a provisional license in BC typically takes 8-12 weeks.
  2. RCPSC Board Exam Ruling Letter:  Eligibility for the royal college board exams requires you to complete an Assessment of Training Form. This assesses your ACGME training to ensure you are qualified to take the Canadian boards. This assessment can take 6-8 months to complete. You will then be provided a “ruling letter” informing you of your eligibility for the Royal College Board Exams. If you are eligible, you will have 3 years to take the royal college exam in your specialty.
  3. PhysiciansApply: Create an account with PhysiciansApply, a centralized electronic repository for medical credentials that can be accessed by each Canadian province. This organization provides source verification of medical degrees, postgraduate degrees, licenses, certificates etc.

Finding a Job

Find a job by searching the job board at HealthMatchBC, which provides a comprehensive list of the vacancies in the province. You can also search Canada-wide job boards like MDwork and drcareers. Alternatively, you can utilize an international recruiting agency to connect with job opportunities and help with medical licensure and immigration. Typically, the recruiting agency’s fees are paid by the hospital or clinic.

Below you will find our partner recruitment organizations. For complete transparency, some of the organizations are providing a referral award to Hippocratic Adventures which we will use to cover the costs of building and maintaining this website and to eventually provide an honorarium to our member-authors-speakers who have shared their time and insight with the community. If inquiring with these organizations, mention that you are with Hippocratic Adventures and send us a message via Contact Us. You will support our community, website, and blog post authors.

CanAm Physician Recruiting Inc. can help connect US physicians, across specialties, to job opportunities in Canada. They will also guide you through the process of registration and immigration.

Head Medical is a leading specialist in international medical recruitment, having helped 1,000s of physicians find new roles in amazing locations including UK,  Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, China, the Gulf, Canada and Caribbean.  So, if you think you might be interested in a new challenge and a change of scene, please get in touch for a chat with one of their recruitment specialists. Their expert team will support you with your licensing and immigration paperwork and provide practical advice to ensure your relocation goes as smoothly as possible.

Healthcare Culture

Most BC residents are enrolled in the BC provincial health insurance and the government reimburses with a fee-for-service model. Everyone has access to the same level of care and the process of billing is simpler since it is a single payer. 

Immigration

Physicians who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents, and who do not have family to sponsor them need a job offer in hand to obtain a work permit.  

Once you accept a job offer, your health authority must sponsor you through the BC Provincial Nominee Program (PNP) (most common) or by requesting a Labour Market Impact Assessment (LMIA), a document an employer in Canada obtains prior to hiring a foreign worker. An LMIA will show that there was no Canadian worker for the job and hence the need for a foreign worker. With this required documentation, you can apply online or at a Canadian consulate. You and your family will also need a medical examination as part of the application.  This process can take about 6 months from the time you accept a job to arriving in BC.

Temporary Work Permit is for physicians who want to fill temporary workforce shortages. This can be done through the Temporary Foreign Worker Program.

Permanent Residence is for physicians who want to move permanently to BC. You can apply for BC- Provincial Nominee Program- Healthcare Professionals or if you are eligible Express-Entry British Columbia (takes less time). Permanent Residency – Family Class is for individuals whose spouse or parent is a Canadian citizen or permanent resident. Your Canadian spouse or parent they can sponsor you for permanent residency regardless of whether you have a job offer. The sponsoring individual must be able to financially support you and ensure you won’t need social assistance from the government.

Bottom Line

Practicing medicine in British Columbia is an involved process requiring paperwork and board exams. This investment makes the most sense for those planning a long-term move. The ocean, the city or the mountains – which will you choose? In BC, you don’t have to choose, you can have them all!

Dr. Ashwini Bapat is a palliative care physician, Founder and CEO of EpioneMD, which provides virtual advanced care planning and serious illness coaching to individuals and telepalliative care consultation to healthcare organizations. She resides in Portugal. For personalized guidance on moving to Canada, learn more about our Guidance Service

Many thanks to an Anonymous Member of our community who shared their experiences practicing in British Columbia, Canada.

 

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