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Specialist physicians (Specialists/SPs) are physicians and licensed health care professionals who are trained and certified in a specific discipline. They specialize in preventing, diagnosing and treating diseases, physiological and psychiatric disorders, and injuries. They examine patients and provide advice and treatment towards the management of patient's health. SPs also act as consultants to other physicians; perform surgery and supervise surgical procedures; and may conduct research on the nature, cause and development of diseases in humans.
Specialist physician disciplines include cardiology, pediatrics, emergency medicine, gynecology, surgery, internal medicine, neurology and many more. There are more than 50 specialties and subspecialties recognized in Canada.
SPs may also choose to work as specialists in clinical medicine, in laboratory medicine and/or in surgery. SPs may work independently or participate in health care teams and coordinate their work with other physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers.
Specialists Physicians perform some or all of the following duties in:
- Diagnose and treat diseases and physiological or psychiatric disorders
- Order laboratory tests, X-rays and other diagnostic procedures
- Prescribe medication and treatment and refer patients for surgery
- Act as consultants to other physicians
- Conduct medical research.
- Study the nature, cause and development of diseases in humans and the structural and functional changes caused by diseases
- Conduct microscopic and chemical analyses of laboratory samples and specimens
- Supervise laboratory activities
- Act as consultants to other physicians.
- Assess patients' diseases or disorders to determine appropriate surgical procedures
- Perform and supervise surgical procedures to correct physical abnormalities and deficiencies and repair injuries
- Act as consultants to other physicians
Specific duties and responsibilities will vary depending on the type of position, such as:
- other medical specialists
- public health officer
- occupational health officer
- research scientist
- teacher or professor
Specialist Physicians in Alberta have access to first-rate research programs, world-class medical facilities, rewarding compensation and incentives, and medical practice options that suit their career aspirations and preferred lifestyle. As such, Alberta offers SPs 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 SPs benefit from stable, collaborative relationships between the profession and the provincial government.
Specialist physicians tend to work in hospitals, outpatient centres, clinics, and private offices; they are often assisted by a small staff of nurses and medical administrators. Specialists in clinical medicine usually work in offices or in a hospital while those in laboratory medicine and in surgery usually work in hospitals.
The majority of specialists are independent contractors and are often members of a medical practice group and may co-ordinate their work with other physicians, nurses, pharmacists and other health care providers. By practising in groups or healthcare organizations, SPs provide back-up coverage for one another and coordinate the care of their patients as a team andoften participate in on-call rosters.
Many physicians work in independent practice or are employed by Alberta Health Services. Others are employed in:
- health administration
- medical research and laboratories
- offices of physicians and surgeons
- occupational medicine
- public health
Want to know what it's like to work as a specialist physician in Alberta? Watch the video.
Specialist physician video (high resolution)
Specialist physician video (low resolution)
If you would like more detailed information about working as a specialist such as: duties, working conditions, salaries, educational requirements and personal characteristics, you can read the career profile for Physicians and see the list of Related Occupation Profiles in AlbertaLearning Information Service's occupational profile website, OCCinfo.
Specialist physicians are regulated in Canada and each province has its own regulatory bodies to ensure consistent standards of competency and practice. Refer to the Working in Alberta section of this website for more information on regulated professions.
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta (CPSA) is the licensing authority for Specialists Physicians in Alberta. The CPSA is responsible for ensuring that SPs 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 license to practice in Alberta are:
- An M.D. degree
- The Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) which is obtainedafter 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 twelve months of postgraduate clinical training.
- Certification from the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
For full information on regarding licensure and registration requirements, and to determine if you are eligible for a physician license in Alberta, please refer to the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Alberta website. You may also visit the CPSA's Online Eligibility Review 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 physicians prepare for the examinations.
In order to obtain recognition for specialists, internationally-trained physicians must demonstrate:
- Four years postgraduate specialty training similar to training available in Canada;
- Specialty certification from another jurisdiction (e.g. the Certificate of Completion of Training for a physician who completed postgraduate training in the UK);
- A full-time academic or public service appointment, or full-time position in an under-serviced Alberta community (e.g. recruitment by a health region to fill a Part 5 Special Register position);
- Successful completion of an assessment satisfactory to the Registrar; and
- Licensure in the Province of Alberta
For more information on internationally-educated medical graduates, including licensing, please consult the CPSA's website.
Physicians in Alberta benefit from stable, collaborative relationships amongst the profession Alberta Medical Association, Alberta Health Services, and the provincial government Alberta Health and Wellness. SPs in Alberta enjoy innovative payment arrangements including Primary Care Networks and alternative payment plans, a provincial locum service, office automation (Electronic Medical Records) 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 specialists practising in Alberta are independent contractors and typically work as members of medical practice groups. SPs 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 information on 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 being reimbursed for their medical Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA) medical malpractice costs and receiving continuing medical education (CME) financial support. These benefits and services are outlined in the Your Service Membership Guide.
According to the 2009 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Specialist physicians earned:
- a minimal average annual salary of $113,571
- average minimum rate of compensation of $61.35 per hour
- average maximum rate of $82.35 per hour
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), specialist physicians earneda minimal average annual salary of $187,432 - 710,840.
The Institute of Health Economics' IHE in Your Pocket 2008: a Handbook of Health Economic Statistics states that specialists in Alberta earned a gross payment of $330,230
Incomes vary considerably depending on location, specialty, number of patient visits and the cost of running a medical office.
To find out about job openings as a Specialist Physician in Alberta, please consult the Alberta Physician Link website, which posts positions across the province.
Specialists begin their career the same way all doctors do, as medical students. Once they graduate, they do an internship, and then, a residency program in their specialty. (Residency is a paid training period.)
Becoming a specialist at a hospital or in private practice may be the final goal for many physicians. Others eventually become department heads or hospital directors.
Physicians 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 a 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 to become a specialist physician.
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 Health Services (AHS)
- Alberta International Medical Graduates Association
- 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: Wed, 12 Dec 2012 09:26:51