Anesthesiology in Canada

Informative Guide on Training, Practice Settings, and Salary Expectations

AnesthesiologistWhat is an Anesthesiologist? 

Anesthesiologists (also spelled Anaesthesiologist) are physicians who specialize in anesthesia care, pain management, and critical care medicine. They administer pain control treatment during surgeries, other medical procedures, prepare patients for surgery and monitor how they react to the anesthetics after surgery. 

Anesthesiologists are required to evaluate, monitor, and supervise patient care before, during, and after surgery, developing anesthetic plans, and administering anesthesia while ensuring optimal patient safety. They lead the anesthesia care team, which consists of nurses and respiratory therapists in the safe care of patients before, during and after surgery.

Anesthesiologists must be familiar with all medical conditions and their implications for patients of all ages undergoing a wide range of surgeries. They are responsible for determining the appropriate level of sedation, communicating with patients about anesthetics and potential side effects and monitoring vitals during operations.

What is the Difference between "Anesthetist" and "Anesthesiologist"? 

The term Anesthetist means one who delivers an anesthetic, and in many countries can refer to both nurses and doctors. In Canada, only trained physicians can provide anesthetic services, and are called Anesthesiologists. 

In Canada we have Family Practice Anesthetists. These are skilled physicians who are qualified in Family Medicine and who have completed a certificate of added competence in Family Practice Anaesthesia from the College of Family Physicians of Canada and can provide anesthesia care.

Delivery of Care Settings

A significant portion of Anesthesiologists work in hospital operating rooms, and can work in many other areas such as intensive care units (ICU) caring for critically ill patients by providing airway management, cardiac and pulmonary resuscitation, advanced life support and pain control. The maternity ward is another unit you will find anesthesiologists, attending to the management of pain relief during childbirth. Some anesthesiologists teach and do research on top of their clinical work.

In larger hospitals they are the leaders of the acute postoperative pain team (APS). With the advent on more non-invasive surgery in radiology and cardiac departments, many of these procedures require an anesthesiologist as well.

Pain centres or pain clinics are another setting for anesthesiologists to provide acute and chronic pain relief to a variety of patients. Pain medicine clinics are multidisciplinary team care facilities often involving the patient's primary care physician or other treating doctor, and other specialists in radiology, psychiatry, psychology, nursing, physical therapy, and complimentary medicine.

Canadian Training General Requirements

Upon completion of medical school, to become certified in general anesthesiology requires an additional 5 years of Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC) approved residency training. 

This training includes 1 year of basic clinical training; and 4 years of Royal College-approved training that must include 30 months of resident training in anesthesiology. During residency, anesthesiologists are extensively trained in human physiology, particularly the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys and liver. They spend a year working in such internal medicine areas as cardiology and respirology.

At least six months are spent in critical care units, such as coronary care, neonatal, pediatric and adult intensive care. By the end of their training they have become experts on anesthesia, resuscitation, critical care, and pain management. 

Additional subspecialty training, like obstetric anesthesia, cardiac anesthesia or pediatric anesthesia, will add on another one to two years.

Applying to Canadian Medical Schools

Canada has 17 accredited faculties of medicine, distributed geographically across the country. Canadian medical schools are accredited by the Committee on Accreditation of Canadian Medical Schools (CACMS) and the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME). 

According to The Association of Faculties of Medicine of Canada (AFMC), the number of places available is determined by provincial governments based on educational and financial resources, as well as Canada’s future physician workforce requirements. Medical schools have an increasing number of applicants every year, while the number of positions available for entry does not increase significantly.

Can International Students Apply to Canadian Medical Schools?

Since the universities are under provincial jurisdiction, the majority of places in a faculty of medicine are allocated to permanent residents of the province in which the university is located. So, although 14 out of the 17 medical schools accept international students, the number of actual positions is limited.

What International Medical Schools are Recognized in Canada?

Anyone with a Medical Degree (MD) from outside of the accredited Canadian and American programs who wants to undertake residency training or practice medicine in Canada is considered an International Medical Graduate (IMG). This includes Canadian citizens and permanent residents. 

The Medical Council of Canada (MCC) has a helpful guide to the acceptable medical schools as defined in the Model Standards for Medical Registration in Canada.

How are Anesthesiologists Paid? 

The Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) which provides essential information on Canada's health systems and the health of Canadians and has the following data:

  • Most physicians receive compensation through multiple models, including both fee-for-service and alternative payments.¬†
  • Alternative methods of paying physicians include salaries, sessional and hourly rates, capitation models and contract-based payments.
  • The largest payment program as a proportion of total gross clinical payments to physicians in Canada is fee-for-service, at about 73% of total payments in 2018‚Äď2019.¬†
  • Fee-for-service services provided by physicians can be split into 2 broad types: consultations/visits and procedures.¬†

What are Anesthesiologists Paid in Canada? 

The gross range of potential annual earnings can vary based on factors including hours, experience, province, rural or urban location, clinic setup, as well as incentives and bonuses offered. A range we see for anesthesiologists across Canada is $260,000 - $750,000.

Demand for Anesthesiologists in Canada

Anesthesiologists play a vital role in the delivery of surgical services across the country. In 2019, the Canadian Anesthesiologists’ Society (CAS) reported the need for more anesthesiologists and predicted a shortfall in services.

According to Canadian Occupational Projection System, this occupational group is expected to face labour shortage conditions over the period of 2019-2028 at the national level. 

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This page is a general guideline only and is not intended as financial or other professional advice. Remuneration ranges are from both source information and our job board. All content is subject to change.

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