Alternative Route to Certification (ARC)

The ARC application is now closed. For additional information, please contact us at [email protected]

Family medicine is now acknowledged as a specialty in Canada. As part of that acknowledgement and in an effort to be inclusive of all those who have an interest in certification in the specialty, those family doctors who do not currently hold a CCFP have the opportunity to acquire certification through the Alternative Route to Certification (ARC) program. Eligible family physicians who have not yet received certification can apply for the ARC program until December 31, 2015. 

The Alternative Route to Certification (ARC) is a time-limited program which assists family physicians to critically review their own practice and does not include an examination component. ARC is a self-directed, computer-based educational program that gives participants access to online resource tools which will not only provide quick answers to clinical questions that arise in daily practice, but also enables them to organize and submit their CME work. 

The ARC is intended as a learning experience, a continuing professional development course based on each physician’s own practice. At the end of the process, you will be able to use the tools we have provided within your practice and continue to critically reflect on your day-to-day work. The alternative route is intended to be evaluative in a formative sense, meaning that you will not pass or fail but continuously endeavour to improve your practice through the use of evidence-based medicine. Each candidate has a peer tutor to help guide them through their work and reflections.

The alternative route to certification program includes three components:

  • A survey of the candidate’s communication skills
  • The development by each candidate of a clinical practice learning profile based on his/her own practice (30 mini-Pearls exercises)
  • Three self-directed, evidence-based practice assessments (three audit-Pearls)

The communication survey is a means for physicians to improve their perception of their communication with patients. The office staff randomly selects patients from the daily list of scheduled appointments. The survey is comprised of a series of matched questionnaires; one filled in independently by the patient and the other by the physician. The questions focus on communication during 30 separate patient encounters. A third party then analyzes the data from the questionnaires and generates a report to be reviewed by the physician.

The practice learning profile is developed by reviewing clinical questions arising from patient encounters. These questions are normally focused questions or issues that can be answered quickly from a properly guided review of literature or other evidence-based data sources such as MD Consult. These question-answer exercises, called mini-Pearls exercises, encourage the physician to develop a learning profile with regard to his/her own practice. 

The assessments (audit-Pearls) involve an evidence-based review of a clinically relevant problem or question that is, in the judgment of the physician deserving of improvement or change from current practice to determine the best practice criteria. This exercise encourages the physician to focus on his/her own practice by critically appraising it. In reality, it is a self-audit.

After successful completion of all program requirements, certifications will be awarded three times a year (June, October, December), upon final approval by the Board of Examiners.

Term of the Program

Enrolment for the alternative route to certification (ARC)  closes  December 31, 2015. The program launched in April 2008. The estimated time for candidates to complete the program is between nine to 12 months and must not exceed 18 months.


Eligibility for this program is restricted to family physicians who have been in practice, while holding a full and unrestricted licence to practice family medicine independently, in a Canadian province/territory, for the five or more continuous years immediately preceding the date of application.


At the time of application, and throughout participation in the program, all physicians participating in the alternative route to certification must:

  1. Be actively practicing family medicine in Canada; and
  2. Be members in good standing of the College of Family Physicians of Canada; 
  3. Possess a full and unrestricted licence to practice family medicine independently in a Canadian province/territory, as evidence by a certificate of good standing from their immediate licensing authority, and
  4. Have their credentials obtained outside Canada source verified by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC) Physician Credential Repository (formerly known as PCRC) at, and ensure that they share their documents with CFPC. The CFPC requires source verification of only the following two documents: medical degree (MD); postgraduate medical training/internship;

Physicians who have been in continuous active family practice in Canada for a period of ten or more consecutive years, and who meet all other eligibility criteria, will be exempt from the source verification requirement upon administrative review.

Special consideration

Canadian physicians who are licensed in Canada, but who are temporarily practicing elsewhere may request special consideration.

Physicians who have taken a leave of absence during the last five years may request special consideration.

For purposes of eligibility for the alternative route, each eligible candidate must be a family physician actively involved in a medical practice in which he/she is currently providing ongoing medical care for patients for a number of different medical presentations. Full-time emergency practice is considered family practice for purposes of eligibility for the alternative route. Candidates must submit a written description of their medical practice including the types of patients seen and services offered.

Physicians whose practices are limited to the provision of procedural services for patients for whom they do not provide ongoing family practice care will not be eligible for the alternative route to certification.

The Board of Examiners of the CFPC will review all applications and make final rulings on all questions of eligibility.

Program Fee: $2 621

The fee for the program must be submitted in full at the time of application. Payment may be made by cheque or credit card. Refunds of the fee are subject to penalties for withdrawal from the program. Candidates who apply to and are accepted to the program are subject to a minimum $300 administrative fee. Candidates who withdraw prior to the completion of the program, but have completed some components will be subject to additional administrative fees. 


I had always tried to practice good medicine but this made me think ("reflective practice") afresh and brought me back to the fold of Evidence Based Medicine. Attaining my CCFP after all these years in practice has been one of the highlights of my medical journey, and I thank the College of Family Physicians for having made it possible.
Martin Jackson, Hamilton ON

Once on the path to ARC, I found it reassuring that as a solo family doctor I was fairly well aligned with current practices. I quickly became addicted to online courses and some really neat research tools became readily available. The whole process provided a burst of renewed enthusiasm for what I was doing, and a desire to do even better for my patients.
Barbara Corbett, Orangeville ON

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