General Practitioners and Family Physicians
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General Practitioners and Family Physicians (Physicians/GPs) are licensed health care professionals and are educated in the general practice, with opportunities to focus their practice in specialized areas.
GPs provide primary contact, advice and continuous care toward the management of patients' health. They examine patients and counsel them on diet, hygiene and preventative health care. They also diagnose and treat patients' diseases, physiological and psychiatric disorders, injuries and other health-related problems.
General practitioners perform some or all of the following duties:
- Examine patients, order diagnostic procedures and consult with other medical practitioners to evaluate patients' physical and mental health
- Prescribe and administer medications and treatments
- Perform and assist in routine surgery
- Provide emergency care
- Provide acute care management
- Inoculate and vaccinate patients
- Deliver babies and provide pre-natal and post-natal care
- Perform patient advocacy role
- Supervise home care services
- Report births, deaths, and contagious and other diseases to government authorities
Specific duties and responsibilities may include the following, depending on the type of position:
- family physician or other medical specialist
- public health officer
- occupational health officer
- research scientist
- teacher or professor
In Alberta, General Practitioners are primary care physicians who treat patients of all ages from pediatrics through geriatrics. GPs help manage and diagnose a variety of common illnesses and conditions covering a broad spectrum of health issues. GPs in Alberta have access to first-rate research programs, rewarding compensation and incentives, and medical practice options that suit their career aspirations and preferred lifestyle. As such, Alberta offers GPs a wealth of opportunities (both challenging and rewarding), a high standard of living and a variety of exciting activities to enjoy.
In Alberta, the majority of hospital, home care, public health and mental health services are delivered through Alberta Health Services (AHS). At any given time, there are more than 7,000 licensed and practising physicians in the province. Alberta's GPs benefit from stable, collaborative relationships between the profession and the provincial government.
General practitioners and family physicians tend to work in small offices or clinics, often assisted by a small staff of nurses and medical administrators. The majority of GPs are independent contractors and are often members of a medical practice group and co-ordinate their work with other physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers. By practising in groups or healthcare organizations, GPs provide backup coverage for one another and coordinate the care of their patients as a team.
GPs have the chance to work directly with individuals, families and groups in a variety of settings and scenarios. Practice opportunities range from small rural and northern communities to larger regional service and teaching centres across Alberta. AHS and many of its partner communities offer competitive incentives and relocation assistance and the Alberta Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP) provides a wide range of recruitment and retention supports to GPs and their families who live outside of Alberta's major urban areas.
Many general practitioners work in independent practice or are employed by Alberta Health Services. Others are employed in:
- medical research
- public health
- occupational medicine
- health administration
- overseas service
- military service
In Alberta, more than 2,000 General Practitioners are also part of a Primary Care Network (PCN), which is becoming increasingly popular. In a PCN, a group of doctors partner with Alberta Health Services to coordinate health services for patients. A PCN can be comprised of one clinic with many physicians, health professionals and support staff, or several physicians and health professionals in several clinics across a geographic area. Each network has the flexibility to develop programs and to provide services in a way that works locally to meet the specific needs of patients in the area they serve.
Want to know what it's like to work as a GP in Alberta? Watch the video on working as a general practitioner:
If you would like more detailed information about working as a general practitioner such as duties, working conditions, salaries, educational requirements and personal characteristics, you can read the career profile for General Practitioners in OCCinfo, the Alberta Learning Information Service's occupational profile website.
General Practitioners and Family Physicians (physicians), represent a regulated profession in Canada and each province has its own regulatory bodies to ensure consistent standards of competency and practice. For more information, refer to our list of regulated professions in Alberta.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) is the licensing authority for general practitioners and family physicians in Alberta. The CPSA is responsible for ensuring that s who request licensure meet the registration requirements in order to practice in Alberta. The CPSA also sets and monitors standards of the medical practice in Alberta and investigates any complaints.
The requirements for a licence in the Province of Alberta are:
- An M.D. degree
- The Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) which is obtained after successfully passing Parts I and II of the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE). Part I is written in May of the final year of medical school. Part II is written after having completed 12 months of postgraduate clinical training.
- Certification from either the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
Requirements for a licence as a Family Doctor in the Province of Alberta for candidates having International Post Graduate Training are:
- Acceptable medical or osteopathic degree
- Completion of International Post Graduate medical training of at least 24 months duration and containing:
- Eight (8) months community-based primary care
- A minimum eight (8) weeks each of three of the following core rotations:
- Internal Medicine
- Medical Council of Canada Evaluating Exam
- Credential verification through the Physician Credential Registry of Canada (PCRC).
- Practice-based assessment
Please refer to the Family Practice self-assessment flowchart (PDF) on the CPSA website for a detailed overview. For full information regarding licensure and registration requirements, and to determine if you are eligible for a physician's licence in Alberta, please refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta website. You may also wish to visit the CPSA's Online Eligibility Review webpage.
Also, doctors in Alberta are regulated under the Health Profession Act. For more information, visit the AMA's Alberta Medical Licence Overview webpage.
The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) grants a qualification in medicine known as the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) to graduate physicians who have satisfied the eligibility requirements and passed the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination Parts I and II. The Medical Council registers candidates who have been granted the LMCC in the Canadian Medical Register. This process ensures that physicians are ready to begin practicing in Alberta.
Physicians are responsible for scheduling their own examinations and ensuring they meet licensing requirements in Alberta. Examination references and materials are provided to help prepare GPs prepare for the examinations.
To learn more about practice opportunities, licensing and relocation to Alberta please see the Alberta Physician Link.
Physicians in Alberta benefit from stable, collaborative relationships between the Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Health Services, and the provincial health ministry, Alberta Health and Wellness. GPs in Alberta enjoy innovative payment arrangements including Primary Care Networks and alternative payment plans, a provincial locum service, office automation support, on-call payment schemes, and the support of the province's two Faculties of Medicine at the University of Alberta and the University of Calgary.
Most general practitioners practising in Alberta are independent contractors and typically work as members of medical practice groups. GPs, including family physicians, are commonly paid bi-weekly on a fee-for-service basis directly from Alberta Health and Wellness according to a payment scheme negotiated with the profession. Please review the Alberta Health and Wellness Physician's Resource Guide or Fees Information for Health Professionals for more informationon the fee-for-service claims to the Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan.
The Alberta Medical Association and Canadian Medical Association serve members with a wide range of benefits and services, such as reimbursement for their Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) medical malpractice costs and receiving financial support for continuing medical education (CME). These benefits and services are outlined in the Your Service Membership Guide.
The province of Alberta offers competitive incentives and relocation assistance under the Rural Physician Action Plan (RPAP). Alberta physicians have access to a physician retention program which offers a yearly lump sum payment for every year of practice in the province. The clinical stabilization fund offers increased remuneration and incentives should physicians establish a practice in an underserviced area of the province, such as rural, remote and northern communities.
According to the 2009 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, general practitioners and family physicians earned:
- a base minimal average annual salary of $94,101;
- average minimum rate of compensation of $48.01 per hour;
average maximum rate of $137.36 per hour.
The above wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses unrelated to production and other forms of compensation.
According to the Alberta Health and Wellness Alberta Health Care Insurance Plan Statistical Supplement (page 35), general practitioners and family physicians earned a minimal average annual salary of $231,902.
The Institute of Health Economics' IHE in Your Pocket 2008: a Handbook of Health Economic Statistics states that physicians in Alberta earned a gross payment of $241,370.
Incomes vary considerably depending on location, specialty, number of patient visits and the cost of running a medical office.
To search for a position as a general practitioner or family doctor in Alberta, please go to the Alberta Physician Link website, which posts job openings across the province.
To become a physician in Alberta, one must complete:
- pre-medicine studies at the university level
- a three- or four-year Medical Doctor (MD) degree program at an accredited university
- post-graduate training in family medicine or another specialty.
In Alberta, MD programs are offered by the following institutions.
- The University of Alberta in Edmonton. Students are encouraged to obtain a bachelor's degree before admission but may apply after a minimum of two years of university studies with a grade point average (GPA) of at least 3.3/4.0.
- The University of Alberta's Faculty of Medicine is committed to the optimization of health through scholarship and leadership in their education programs, in both fundamental and applied research and in the prevention and treatment of illness.
- An Undergraduate Program in Family Medicine is also available from the Department of Family Medicine (see How to become a Family Physician for more information regarding residency requirements).
- The University of Calgary. The entrance requirement is completion of at least three years of recommended Arts and Sciences courses at a recognized post-secondary institution.
- The Faculty of Medicine at the University of Calgary has an internationally renowned innovative, patient-based, cross-disciplinary, research-intensive program. The Faculty is an international leader in health research, education and delivery and their educational programs help prepare future generations of health practitioners.
Because these are quota programs, many applicants who fulfill the entrance requirements cannot be accepted. Successful applicants are selected on the basis of:
- academic grades
- letters of recommendation
- personal interviews
- the results of a Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT)
The required university courses may be taken entirely at the University of Calgary or the University of Alberta or, in part, at other post-secondary institutions.
Post-secondary institutions across Alberta offer university transfer programs that allow students to apply up to two years of study toward university Bachelor's degree programs. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that the courses they choose to take will be accepted for credit at the institution to which they wish to transfer.
In general, the admission requirement for university and university transfer programs is a high school diploma or equivalent with a competitive average in English Language Arts 30-1, Pure Math 30 and three other appropriate Grade 12 subjects (usually Biology 30, Physics 30 and Chemistry 30).
For current information about programs, admission requirements and mature student admission policies, please check post-secondary calendars or websites.
After successfully completing an MD program, physicians must complete additional training to specialize their practice as a family physician or further training to become a specialist physician.
To become a Family Physician
The main residency program is a two-year Family Medicine program leading to eligibility for certification by the College of Family Physicians of Canada. Opportunity is available for residents who would like to pursue additional training in several areas applicable to family physicians, including Family Medicine-Emergency Medicine and Enhanced Skills: Care of the Elderly. All three programs are accredited by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
To become a Specialist Physician
Specialist physicians require four to seven years resident postgraduate training. The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada oversees the medical education of specialists in Canada.
- Alberta College of Family Physicians (ACFP)
- Alberta International Medical Graduates Association
- Alberta Health Services
- Alberta Health and Wellness
- Alberta Medical Association (AMA)
- Alberta Physician Link
- College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC)
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA)
- Medical Council of Canada (MCC)
- Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC)
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Date Updated: Mon, 05 Nov 2012 03:49:40