Completing medical school training is a major achievement that medical students should celebrate, however, it is only a checkpoint on student’s journeys towards a successful medical career.
Following medical school, students enter the next phase of their education through medical residency programs, which last from three to seven years, where they receive comprehensive, postgraduate training within a specialized field (or subfield) of medicine.
Canadians citizens studying medicine abroad have a number of options at their disposal when it comes time to find a residency position back home or in the United States. If they hope to pursue their medical career in their home communities, they can apply for residency training through the Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS).
Canadian Residency Program Requirements
For international medical graduates who want to become doctors in Canada, their citizenship status determines their application pathways for medical residency in Canada.
For example, if a Canadian citizen or permanent resident completes their studies at a top-tier Caribbean medical school, they are eligible for medical residency in Canada once they complete the National Assessment Collaboration (NAC) exam and relocate to meet the eligibility requirements of the Canadian Resident Matching Service.
In other words, Canadian medical graduates from Caribbean medical schools are on equal footing with graduates from Canadian medical schools for residency positions in Canada.
Medical residents receive extensive training that will lead to a speciality certification by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) or to certification as a family physician by the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC).
The RCPSC is that national organization that oversees medical residency training and certification for dozens of medical specialties and subspecialties, while the CFPC focuses solely on the field of family medicine, offering training, certification and lifelong education for family physicians.
From Medical Students to Doctors in Training
Once a medical student receives their medical degree, whether Doctor of Medicine (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathy (DO), they can claim the title of “doctor,” however, there remains a long way to go in their medical education before they can practice medicine independently.
Fourth year medical students usually have a good idea of the direction they want to take during their postgraduate medical training, but they should try to keep their options open, as there is no guarantee that they will be accepted, especially for highly competitive specialties or sub-specialities.
What to Expect During a Residency Program
For a medical resident, their specialty training can be quite lengthy and difficult, requiring just as much (if not more) effort and dedication than med school itself. Because postgraduate training, followed by fellowship training, can last for up to seven years in some specialized medical fields, medical students must be cognizant of their intensive demands.
Throughout their training, residents should be proactive in combating stress, fatigue and burnout in order to rise to the challenges of this busy period in their lifelong education.
Types of Residency Training
Residency training in fields such as family medicine or internal medicine lasts only three years, which is the shortest possible time frame to complete residency requirements. Other fields, such as anaesthesiology or obstetrics / gynecology, have four-year residencies, while residencies with a surgical focus, such as a general surgery residency or neurosurgery residency have the longest time frames, lasting from five to seven years.
For a complete breakdown of the length of residency training by specialty or subspeciality, the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada provides comprehensive information by discipline.
A Critical Step in a Lifelong Educational Journey
As most students quickly realize early on in medical school, medical education is an ongoing process that will continue throughout their medical careers. Going from med school to residency is a critical juncture where students get to play a larger role in defining their medical career path.