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Transition to practice: “You’re welcome, future self!”

How to ensure your transition from residency to practice sets you up for future success

So, you’re almost finished your medical training. Congratulations! It’s been a long road, and now you find yourself on the verge of starting a professional medical career. The leap from residency to practising as a physician is a big one, and there’s a lot you’ll need to do to get yourself to the other side.  

While it might seem daunting, being proactive about your transition into practice will save you from costly last-minute delays (and a whole lot of stress and anxiety). Your future self will thank you. 

There are many important steps to take before you start your practice, from applications and certifications, to legal and financial arrangements — not to mention the most important decision of all: what kind of practice are you going to undertake?

Here’s an overview of some of the big tasks you’ll have to tackle as you launch yourself into the world of medicine.  

Last things first: Start your job search

Your final year of residency is the time to start thinking about — and planning for — your job search (and if you’re in a particularly competitive specialty, you might want to start doing this even earlier). You may already have a solid idea of what kind of practice you want to establish, but if you’re still unsure, there are lots of resources available to help you weigh your options.   

Throughout your residency, you’ve met a ton of people and made some important connections, and all these interactions should help you shape your vision of the future. Don’t be afraid to reach out to your peers and colleagues to learn as much as you can about what their personal and professional lives are like — and whether or not you value the same things. Your residency is almost like one big job interview, so be curious, be clear, be confident, and most important of all, be yourself. 

Remember to start updating your CV — odds are you haven’t even looked at it since your CaRMS application. Just think of all your accomplishments since then.

When you’re about six to nine months away from the end of your residency, it’s time to start sending out applications. This will give you time to consider the opportunities that are available to you, and to set the stage for the important steps that come next. 

Get some advice from the other professionals

Finance. Law. Insurance. Three industries that are almost as complicated as medicine. And guess what? You’re going to have to learn about them, too. 

Speaking with a financial advisor throughout your residency will help you plan for the costs of setting up your practice, figure out how to manage your student loans and lines of credit once you’re no longer a resident, and come up with strategies to start investing your income while repaying your debts.  

A financial advisor can also connect you with accountants and lawyers who are familiar with the unique issues that medical professionals face. They’ll help you crunch the numbers, set up your business, negotiate contracts, buy insurance and cover all the legal and financial obligations you’re undertaking by establishing a practice. 

One vital thing you’ll have to take care of right away is malpractice insurance, which is provided by the Canadian Medical Protective Association (CMPA). Many residents have their CMPA dues fully or partially paid by their employers, but once you finish residency, it’s your responsibility to arrange your own coverage, which has to be in place the second you begin practising as a physician. You can set this up by calling the CMPA about four to five weeks before completing your residency to let them know your completion date, so they can change your work code. 

Apply, apply, apply (then apply some more)

Here’s a list of some of the things you might have to apply for in the final year of your residency:  

  • Apply for hospital privileges.
  • Apply for fellowship in the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.
  • Apply for the Maintenance of Certification (MOC) Program.
  • Apply for certification in the College of Family Physicians of Canada.
  • Apply for licensure in your province or territory.
  • Apply to your provincial or territorial medical association.
  • Apply for a billing number.

Requirements also differ from province to province or territory, so be sure to check with your provincial or territorial governing body as well.

What should I do next?

If you have any questions about how to manage your transition from residency to practice, such as developing a solid financial plan that will help you cover the costs of setting up a business, or how to get through those first few months when income is scarce — an MD Advisor* is always available to help.

* MD Advisor refers to an MD Management Limited Financial Consultant or Investment Advisor (in Quebec), or an MD Private Investment Counsel Portfolio Manager.