By Katie Pospiech
GP Support, Vancouver Division of Family Practice
Once you’ve completed your Family Medicine Residency, there are several different career paths you can choose to pursue. Many GPs will work in more than one setting to add variety to their career.
Clinical Family Practice
The most common career path for Family Medicine graduates is to begin working as a General Practitioner in a clinic setting. Initially, many New-to-Practice GPs will choose to work as a locum before they set up a full-time practice. Working as a locum gives exposure to a variety of clinic environments to better understand preferences, as well as the opportunity to form working connections, which helps in finding a permanent spot to set up future practice. Locum opportunities can range anywhere from a few days to a few months and are offered in both urban centres like Vancouver, as well as in rural clinics across the province.
There are some New-to-Practice GPs who are ready to start building their own practice immediately after graduation. Whether you prefer to start right away or choose to locum first, there are several different approaches that you can take to starting a practice. One option, if you want to ensure that you are busy from day one, is to take over a panel from a retiring physician. The advantage of following this path is that the retiring physician has already done the hard work of building a balanced and profitable panel. A second option, if you would like to carefully curate a panel specific to your interests, is to join an existing clinic and begin gradually accepting patients. Many physicians are choosing this option to work in group practices for the collegiality and support. For those physicians who are more entrepreneurially-minded, a third option is to open your own clinic, which provides an opportunity to experience both clinical work as well as the business side of medicine. This can be an attractive option, as it allows for the freedom of choosing where your clinic will be located and how many colleagues with whom you want to work.
In addition to working in a family practice, many physicians often choose to diversify their practice by doing other medical work in the community. In the city of Vancouver, Community Health Centres (CHCs) employ multi-disciplinary healthcare teams to provide primary healthcare to specific vulnerable and underserved populations. There are 9 CHCs across the city of Vancouver and physicians are paid a sessional rate, on account of needing to spend more time with these complex patients. Another option for GPs is to work as a hospitalist or as an emergentologist at a local hospital. Hospitalists work to provide general medical care for hospitalized patients; while emergentologists care for patients who are acutely ill or injured and often arrive at the hospital through the emergency department. General Practitioners can become certified with a specialty in emergency medicine by the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
For physicians who are passionate about providing care for the elderly, there is opportunity for general practitioners to cover panels of patient living in Residential Care Facilities. Many Divisions of Family Practice, including the Vancouver Division, have programming and funding incentives to supports physicians who chose to augment their practice with a Residential Care Facility panel.
Physicians who are interested in working with a specific subsect of the population could consider working as an ‘in-house’ physician at one of the Provincial Health Service Authority’s provincially run facilities. For example, these includes BC Corrections facilities and provincial psychiatric institutes. One final, rather unique option for practicing with a specific population in the community to be hired as a military physician. These physicians work for the Canadian Armed Forces to provide primary healthcare services to its members either at a Canadian Forces Health Services Clinic or overseas in support of peacekeeping or humanitarian missions.
There are also several opportunities for GPs to work in non-clinical roles. For example, if you are interested in a leadership or managerial role, several of the healthcare programs run by the local Health Authorities (for example Vancouver Coastal Health’s Substance Use Services) hire General Practitioners to lead and manage the programming/services for these initiatives. You could also work as a Medical Advisor for an insurance agency (such as WorkSafe BC) to provide opinions and recommendations for cases on issues related disability and medical management. Another opportunity to work in an advisory role is to join a committee. Many healthcare organizations, including the Divisions of Family Practice, nominate physicians to sit on their Board of Directors or other supporting committees. Working on committees allows you to provide feedback and speak to the current issues and successes of primary care. Alternatively, you could join the UBC Faculty of Medicine and share your passion for learning and medicine with the next generation of physicians. Physicians in these professorship positions often take on research projects as well. While these projects are typically coordinated through post-secondary education institutions such as UBC, they can also be housed in other non-profit research firms.
Though we have described a multitude of options, this list is certainly not exhaustive. Wherever your passions lead you, your Division of Family Practice is there to support you. For example, the Vancouver Division runs a Personalized Matching Program, through which we work with physicians looking for locum or permanent placements to match them to our partner clinics in Vancouver based on the best fit. If you are interested in finding out more about our Personalized Matching Program or any of our other physician supports, please see visit our website.