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Medical Matters: Strengthening registration practices at home and across Canada

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March Messenger 2024, Medical Matters, Registration | Posted March 14, 2024
Read time: 3 minutes

By Dr. Michael Caffaro, Assistant Registrar, Registration

The provincial, national and international physician shortage seems to be a constant conversation starter and an ever-present story in the media these days. At CPSA, we recognize how challenging this shortage is for patients and communities across Alberta, which is one of the reasons we continue to ensure we license physicians and physician assistants as efficiently as possible without compromising patient safety.

As you’ll learn in this month’s edition of The Messenger, CPSA is taking many steps to improve our registration processes and reduce administrative barriers for physicians wanting to practise in Alberta. I would like to use this month’s Medical Matters to provide an overview of some of the projects we’ve been working on recently, and I encourage you to read on for more details in the accompanying articles.

At home

In 2023, international medical graduates (IMGs) made up nearly 35 per cent of Alberta’s physician workforce. Before IMGs can begin practising in Alberta, they must complete a Practice Readiness Assessment (PRA)—the final step to independent practice in Alberta for those who do not have complete Canadian credentials*. CPSA continues to lead the country in PRAs. In fact, in 2023, CPSA conducted a record 135 assessments, 29 more than the previous year.

CPSA’s five-year pilot project to accelerate registration for IMGs trained in certain jurisdictions has also been moving along nicely. In 2023, 181 candidates who applied for this accelerated route to registration received a CPSA eligibility letter. This has been a substantial project for everyone involved, and I want to sincerely thank our team in Registration and Registration Assessments for all their hard work.

As you’ll learn from this month’s articles, CPSA has several other initiatives on the go to enhance our registration process. Since 2015, Alberta Health Services has been the sole sponsor for physicians going through CPSA’s assessment process and into independent practice; however, last week, CPSA announced an expansion of the sponsorship program to allow individuals, organizations, corporations, and others with interest to apply to sponsor a family medicine physician position in their desired community. This change is just another way that CPSA, in our regulatory role, is working to improve access to care in our province. Since this change was announced on March 5, we have already received over 45 applications, demonstrating early interest in this important step that will support a physician’s path to practice in Alberta.

This month, CPSA also announced changes to how we use the designations “specialist” and “nonspecialist” after learning that the nonspecialist designation has led to challenges in retaining and recruiting physicians. As a result, physicians practising in a specialty discipline (recognized by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada) who demonstrate they meet criteria under CPSA’s General and Provisional Registers, and have no restriction on scope of practice, will now be designated the title of “specialist.” A regulated member’s certifications remain displayed in CPSA’s online directory within the ‘qualifications’ tab on their Physician Details page.

Finally, I’d like to highlight that, as of Jan. 22, 2024, CPSA accepts Subspecialist Examination Affiliate Program (SEAP) credentials toward licensure for physicians who have passed a Royal College subspecialty exam. These colleagues, who were not previously eligible for registration in their primary specialty, may now practice independently in their subspecialty discipline. This single change has already created a positive impact on recruitment in critical care disciplines.

Across Canada

Each province faces their own unique challenges, yet many of the issues plaguing the healthcare system are widespread. I have been fortunate to engage in discussions with my colleagues on a national level and am pleased to share that as early as April, provincial medical regulatory authorities from across Canada can begin inputting physician data, including credentials, specialties and practice locations, into a National Registry of Physicians (NRP). Having access to centralized physician data will help improve collaboration across jurisdictions, ease planning for physician practice coverage when needed and create new opportunities for physician workforce planning on a pan-Canadian basis. This is an exciting step towards improving healthcare access in Canada, and CPSA is looking forward to supporting the NRP as it develops to fruition.

These projects demonstrate some of the ways CPSA is leveraging our role as the regulator to accelerate and improve registration processes, which may ultimately help improve access to care for patients in our province. Health care is an industry that relies on collaboration and innovation, and I would be remiss not to thank our partners in Alberta and across Canada for their work towards our common goal: accessible and appropriate care for all patients.


*Canadian credentials include the Licentiate of the Medical Council of Canada (LMCC) and certification with one of either the College of Family Physicians of Canada or the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada.

A man smiling for a portrait photo. He has brown hair and is wearing a white and blue striped shirt. Dr. Michael Caffaro has been a CPSA team member since 2015 and is currently the Assistant Registrar, Registration at CPSA. Prior to this role, Dr. Caffaro worked in CPSA’s Professional Conduct department for six years as Complaints Director and Assistant Registrar, Professional Conduct. Dr. Caffaro is a University of Alberta graduate and, before joining CPSA, spent 22 years as a family physician in Hinton, Alta.

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