Guidelines for Foreign Trained Doctors Seeking Practice in Canada: Part 1

As an international doctor aspiring to make Canada your permanent home, establishing your own medical practice could be on your horizon. While it’s important to remember that the paperwork and licensing procedures required for international doctors to be licensed in Canada can be time-consuming, once you’ve acquired your Canadian medical qualification, there’s no barrier to you setting up your own medical practice.

Many doctors in Canada find that owning their practice is a fulfilling and professionally beneficial decision, offering greater control over their financial affairs and career trajectory. If this prospect intrigues you, there are five key considerations to bear in mind as an international medical professional intending to start a practice in Canada:

  1. Deciding on a Practice Structure: The Canadian healthcare system offers a range of options for physicians to incorporate or run a medical practice. This could take the form of a group practice with other doctors, an independent solo practice, a contractor role at a hospital, or operating as a locum tenens physician. Each of these structures brings with it different advantages and disadvantages, particularly for international doctors. You must decide the best structure for you based on factors such as startup costs, your financial circumstances, and your ability to work with others. Take your time and think about your personal situation to make the most suitable choice.
  2. Creating a Business Plan: Just like any other small business in Canada, lenders will likely require you to prepare a business plan for your medical clinic. This plan should include details such as your office’s rent, the number of doctors at your clinic, a solid estimate of your monthly and startup costs, and ideally a 1-3 year projection of your clinic’s finances. In addition to these financial aspects, you should also incorporate less tangible factors into your business plan. Try to envision your ideal patient, where they live, their professions, their preferred mode of transport, and so on. This will aid you in determining the type of office you’ll need and its ideal location.
  3. Consulting with Professionals: As is the case in many other countries, incorporating a business such as a medical practice in Canada comes with its own set of tax and legal implications. This is particularly critical for newcomers to Canada, as it’s vital to understand these aspects right from the outset to avoid costly mistakes further down the line. It’s highly recommended to consult with an accountant and a lawyer to navigate these complexities and ensure your new medical practice has a strong legal and financial foundation.
  4. Building Canadian Credit: In Canada, acquiring anything from a small business loan, leased office space, telephone services, to utilities often hinges on your credit score. A credit score is a three-digit number ranging from 300-900, reflecting your financial trustworthiness to lenders. Fortunately, many lenders consider your medical education and earning potential when making financing decisions, but you will still need to demonstrate financial stability in Canada to secure a loan. While you’re under supervision or residency as part of your accreditation process, it’s an ideal time to start building your credit score.
  5. Establishing Your Administrative Systems: Despite Canadian doctors having less administrative workload compared to some countries, setting up efficient administrative systems is essential. This includes an Electronic Medical Record (EMR) system to manage patient records, a billing system for payments, and staff to handle front-of-house duties. If you’re new to Canada, it’s beneficial to reach out to your colleagues or draw from your previous Canadian roles for advice on effective administrative systems. Alternatively, you could work as a locum doctor for a period to gain exposure to a range of Canadian medical practices and discern which systems would best suit your needs.

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