Q: I want to remain in the medical field but I don’t want to go through the emotional and mental stress of obtaining my license to practice as a medical doctor here in Canada. What alternatives do I have?
A: There are several options. Some of them are not strictly medical but you will be dealing with other people regularly, similar to how you would as a doctor. For most of them, however, you might need to take a course and/or earn a diploma or degree.
Since my arrival in Canada, I have considered these alternatives and even visited some schools here in Alberta for a tour.
Even though I really want to practice medicine here, I have signed up for job alerts to get a feel of what’s out there. I use:
- Indeed Jobs Canada
- Government of Canada Jobs
- Job postings – Alberta careers, learning, and employment information
- Occupations in Alberta – Alberta careers, learning, and employment information (ALIS)
- Occupations in Demand – Alberta careers, learning, and employment information (ALIS)
- Emerging Occupations – Alberta careers, learning, and employment information (ALIS)
Most of the information below was culled from the website of the Alberta Careers, Learning and Employment Infomation.
1. Clinical Assistant/Physician Assistant. This is almost like being a doctor but you cannot work unsupervised. The working conditions and remuneration are however quite good.
Clinical Assistant ≠ Physician Assistant. If you want to be a Clinical Assistant, you do not need to go back to school. To become a Physician Assistant on the other hand, you will be required to do a Physician Assistant Course ranging from 2 to 4 years. Visit the Canadian Association of Physician Assistants website for more information.
Although each province has its own eligibility criteria for Clinical Assistant positions, a minimum of one-year clinical experience is a general requirement.
- Alberta Clinical and Surgical Assistant Program
- College of Physicians and Surgeons of Nova Scotia
- Clinical Assistants Manitoba
2. Research Assistant. You will probably work in a medical school or departmental research unit. I don’t think you need further training to get this type of job. In addition, if you still want to apply for residency, this experience will look good on your CV.
3. Medical Office Assistant. Medical office assistants mostly work in clinics, and they perform a wide variety of clerical and administrative tasks such as scheduling appointments, word processing, bookkeeping and accounting, photocopying, filing and answering telephone calls and correspondence. Most clinics require you to have a one-year (or less) Medical Office Assistant Diploma.
4. Hospital Unit Clerk. This is also a one-year (or less) diploma course. Unit clerks perform a variety of reception, clerical and administrative duties at nursing stations on the units or wards of hospitals. They do also work in continuing care centers, physician’s offices, and other medical facilities.
5. Medical Office Assistant & Unit Clerk. This combined option gives you an advantage over just doing either the Unit Clerk or the Medical Office Assistant Course because you can work in either a hospital or an office setting.
6. Health Administrator. You need to get some extra education/certification.
7. Community Service Worker/Community Support Worker. Also requires a one-year diploma
8. Addictions Counsellor. A related university degree is the preferred credential for addictions counselors. Depending on the place of employment, a related two-year post-secondary diploma plus related work experience or training may also be acceptable.
9. Massage Therapist. This is a growing career which has high demand. In order to be a member of the Massage association and be eligible to bill for health insurance, it is a requirement that the student attends an educational institution offering a minimum of 2200 hours of training.
10. Health Care Aide. If you take this on a full-time basis, you can be qualified in as little as 4 months and some schools even allow you a shortened program if you are already a health professional.
11. Medical Lab Assistant. Medical laboratory assistants perform clerical and pre-analytical tasks such as data entry and blood collection in medical laboratories. If you like working in labs, then this might be for you. A diploma program is usually required.
12. Ultrasound Technician/Diagnostic Medical Sonographer. With this type of career, you stay within the health profession by operating ultrasound equipment to produce and record images of body organs, masses, and fetal imaging. The minimum educational requirement is a three-year diploma program in diagnostic medical sonography.
13. Emergency Medical Personnel. There are 3 levels of this career: an Emergency Responder, then Emergency Medical Technician and lastly an Emergency Medical Technologist-Paramedic. If you like adrenaline-packed action, you might enjoy this career.
14. Fitness Instructor. There are many opportunities for you to help people on their fitness journeys.
15. Pharmacy Assistant. Pharmacy assistants assist pharmacists and pharmacy technicians by compounding, packaging, and labeling pharmaceutical products, and maintaining prescription records and inventories of medications and pharmaceutical products. Usually requires a diploma.
16. Dental Administrative Assistant and Dental Hygienist/Therapist. These will require entire new training. Dental Assistants do clerical work while Dental Hygienists assess, diagnose and treat oral health conditions. They also provide therapeutic, educational and preventive dental hygiene procedures and strategies to promote wellness. You will need a degree to be a Dental Hygienist but a one-year diploma course to be a Dental Administrative Assistant.
17. Marriage and Family Counsellor. A good choice if you enjoy interacting with people and making a difference in people’s lives. Most marriage and family counselors have at least a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, social work, psychology or a related discipline.
18. Social Worker. Social workers help individuals, families, groups, communities, and organizations develop the skills and resources they need to enhance their social functioning and social environments. Social workers must have a diploma, bachelor’s degree or master’s degree in social work. Some employers require a minimum of a bachelor of social work (BSW) degree. Other requirements may include a criminal record check, child welfare intervention record check, a valid driver’s license and the use of a vehicle.
19. Mental/Psychiatric Aide. Mental health aides work under the direct supervision of health care professionals caring for people who are mentally ill, developmentally handicapped, cognitively impaired or brain injured.
20. Occupational Therapist Assistant. Occupational therapist assistants help occupational therapists implement treatment programs that are designed to develop, improve or maintain clients’ abilities to function independently. Employers generally prefer to hire graduates of related post-secondary diploma programs.
21. Physical Therapist Assistant. Physical therapist assistants assist physiotherapists in the implementation of treatment programs designed to improve or maintain clients’ abilities to function independently. Employers generally prefer to hire graduates of related post-secondary diploma programs.
22. Recreational/Athletic Therapist. Moderate demand job but quite rewarding. Recreation therapists work with people who have illnesses and disabling conditions to improve their health and quality of life through leisure and recreation. The minimum education requirement is a degree or diploma in recreation with a specialization in therapeutic recreation. A four-year degree is generally required for employment as a recreation therapist in acute care hospitals. Two-year diploma program graduates may be hired as recreation therapy assistants.
23. Nursing. You would need to go back to nursing school. Options include doing a Registered Nursing (RN), Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) or BSc Nursing course.
24. Patient Advocate. In general, a patient advocate works with patients receiving health care and their caregivers to help them navigate the health care system and ensure they receive the best possible care. Educational requirements for patient advocates vary based on the employer. A minimum of a two-year post-secondary diploma in a relevant discipline such as nursing, social work or business is sometimes required. Work experience related to patient advocacy may also be required by some employers.
25. Infection Control Professional. Infection control professionals work in health care settings to ensure adherence to Infection Prevention and Control (IPC) standards and protect patients and healthcare workers from the spread of infection. Infection control professionals usually require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing or another health-related science, as well as previous experience working in a healthcare setting. Infection control professionals are generally required to obtain their Certification of Infection Control (CIC) from the Certification Board of Infection Control within a certain time period after being hired.
26. Health Coach. Health coaches support, guide and motivate clients with chronic and often preventable diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, to make behavioral, nutritional and other changes to improve personal health and well-being. Educational requirements for health coaches vary based on the employer. Some employers may also prefer to hire individuals with work experience related to health coaching. Individuals serious about setting up and maintaining a coaching business may pursue an International Coach Federation (ICF) credentialing.
27. Medical Radiation Technologist. This career group comprises of Magnetic Resonance Technologists, Radiological Technologists, Nuclear Medicine Technologists, Combined Laboratory and X-Ray Technologist, Radiation Therapists, etc. They all require 2 – 3 years of schooling.
28. Dietitian/Nutritionist. Dietitians assess, develop, implement and evaluate food and nutrition strategies and programs; develop and analyze food and food products; manage food service systems; promote food security and safety; and conduct research. The minimum education requirement is a four-year degree in foods and nutrition followed by a provincially approved internship.
29. Respiratory Therapist. Respiratory therapists work with health care team members in diagnosing, treating, educating and promoting wellness in patients who suffer from cardio-respiratory disease and related disorders. The minimum educational requirement is a three-year diploma in respiratory therapy.
30. Life Skills Coach. Life skills coaches prepare learners to deal effectively with personal issues by guiding them through activities such as self-discovery and behavior identification exercises. They work with individuals and groups. Its job description is quite similar to a Community and Social Services Worker.
Would you ever consider doing an alternative career? Do you have a plan B if you are unable to practice Medicine? I would love to hear your thoughts!