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Medical Workforce supply overview

Medical Workforce supply overview

What is included

This overview provides a high level snapshot of what’s happening with Canada’s physician workforce since 2010. Subspecialties are excluded and further inclusion/exclusion criteria are detailed in the Data Sources for Medical Workforce Knowledgebase, Specialty Designations, and Medical Workforce Knowledgebase Metrics sections of the Medical Workforce Knowledgebase. The summary table shows how each of the 31 primary specialties is changing according to five change metrics:

  1. R1 quota: the number of residency positions offered in the first iteration of the CaRMS R-1 match
  2. New trainees: the number of first year (PGY1) post-M.D. trainees (residents)
  3. New certificants: the number of physicians who became newly-certified by the CFPC and/or Royal College
  4. Total licensed physicians: the number of active physicians in Canada as reported by CIHI
  5. Relative workforce age: the number of physicians in five year age clusters as reported by CIHI (e.g., 35-39).


The Family Medicine and Medical Specialist workforces have been growing according to all four trend lines (R1 quota, new PGY1 trainees, new certificants and the licensed physician workforce). For every Family Physician aged 65+ there is one family physician aged <35. For every five Medical Specialists aged 65+ there are approximately four aged <35, making Medical Specialists a comparatively older workforce.

Overall, the Surgical Specialties have seen a reduction in both the number of residency positions offered and the number of new trainees. Since 2010 the number of Surgical Specialty residency positions decreased by about nine per year and the number of new Surgical trainees decreased by about 12 per year. Surgical Specialists are also a relatively older workforce, with ten physicians aged 65+ for every seven physicians aged <35.

Like the Medical and Surgical workforces, Laboratory Specialists tend to be relatively older.  In 2014, for every one Laboratory Specialist aged <35 there were two aged 65+.

Key Observations

  • Seven of 31 primary specialties are experiencing workforce increases according to all four MWK metrics.  From 2010 – 2014, Family Medicine, Anatomical Pathology, Internal Medicine, Psychiatry, Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine and Dermatology all saw increases in the number of R1 quota, new PGY1 trainees, new certificants and total licensed physician workforce.
  • While signs of decrease are less common, several specialties exhibit signs of possible workforce reduction from 2010-2014.
    • Radiation Oncology experienced reductions in the number of residency positions, new PGY1 trainees and new certificants. However, unlike most other specialties, the Radiation Oncology workforce is relatively young, with almost two physicians aged <35 for every physician aged 65+. 
    • Most Surgical Specialties are experiencing reductions in the number of residency positions and new PGY1 trainees. The number of Orthopedic Surgery residency positions decreased by about five per year.  During the same time period the number of new General Surgery PGY1 trainees decreased by just over six per year.
    • Two Laboratory disciplines – General Pathology and Neuropathology – saw reductions in the number of licensed physicians. Apart from these two disciplines, all other specialty workforces increased in number over the five-year time period.

Medical Workforce supply overview table (PDF)

Medical Workforce supply overview table (Spreadsheet)