New doctors face higher levels of debt from hitting the books, a new survey of Canadian physicians suggests.

The Canadian Medical Association, the College of Family Physicians of Canada and the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada released the census of doctors and future doctors on Wednesday.  


Debt levels associated with the getting a medical education continued to increase. (John Ulan/Canadian Press)

Debt levels associated with getting a medical education continued to increase, according to the report on medical residents and medical students currently registered in all fields at Canadian medical schools.

In 2010, 23 per cent of residents estimated having over $120,000 in education-related debt by the time they complete their residency training, compared with 17 per cent in 2007, the report's authors said.

The highest proportions of residents with over $120,000 in debt were found at Memorial University in Newfoundland (47 per cent) and Northern Ontario School of Medicine (44 per cent). The lowest were at Universities of Laval (6 per cent) and Sherbrooke (7 per cent).

Nearly a quarter, 24 per cent, of medical students said they planned to choose a specialty with a high earning potential, and 17 per cent said they'd chose a shorter residency program to start paying off their debts sooner.

While the top five medical specialties remained the same compared to 2007, emergency medicine rose in popularity from fourth to third place, almost replacing internal medicine as the second most popular specialty. Family medicine retained the top spot.

Pediatrics and OB/GYNs were the fourth and fifth most popular specialties in 2010.

Search for work-life balance

Achieving a work-life balance continued to be a main factor in having a satisfying practice, with 51 per cent of medical residents and 53 per cent of medical residents calling it important.

Future doctors said working collaboratively with other providers, setting their work hours, and tapping into electronic tools would make a difference in their career satisfaction.

More second year residents said they were exposed to electronic medical records during their training, up from 68 per cent in 2007 when the last survey was done to 80 per cent in 2010.

A smaller proportion of residents said they plan to leave the country to practice. About 5.5 per cent of medical residents reported planning to practice in another country when they graduate, a figure that's decreased since 2010 when the proportion was 9.3 per cent.

In 2010, there were 66,383 practicing physicians in Canada, the College of Family Physicians of Canada said. About 12,000 of them completed the latest National Physician Survey, along with just under 5,600 residents and medical students.