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Family physicians specialize in the whole person See why family medicine is the right specialty for you
from shins to twinsWho provides a person with continuity of care for all the stages of life, from birth to their final days? It’s their family physician, of course! When it comes time to choose a speciality in your medical education, you have to go with your passion. You will have the opportunity to care for the patient as a whole. And not just their physical health.

Family physicians specialize in the whole person. Caring for your patients, alongside members of a health care team, in the diverse contexts of patients’ lives, families, and communities, you will see—and improve—a much greater range of health issues. Every day and every patient bring unique and exciting opportunities for you to learn and grow as a professional.

Are you ready? Here’s what you can do:

woman thinkingGet your questions answered!

We answer some of your most common questions about family medicine! Read our Family Medicine FAQs to learn more.

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Join a Family Medicine Interest Group

Join a Family Medicine Interest Group (FMIG): FMIGs offer a variety of student activities to help you discover the opportunities, roles, and breadth of family medicine. Activities often include speakers’ series, clinical skills workshops, mentorship programs and advocacy initiatives. Learn more about FMIG activities and other resources for FMIGs.

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Join CFPC for free!

If you’re a medical student in a Canadian university faculty of medicine program, you can join CFPC at no charge. This gives you access to all kinds of membership resources and benefits. You can also join the Section of Medical Students (SOMS) Council, a national committee that links with each university’s medical school across Canada.

If you have questions about becoming a family physician, please reach out to us!

Contact CFPC

Family Medicine FAQs

Common questions from medical students about family medicine

  • “Do I need a plus one after residency?”

    • Additional skills are not necessary to practise comprehensive family medicine, but training is available to acquire enhanced family medicine competencies
    • Graduates from family medicine residency are prepared to provide first-contact patient care that is holistic, complex, continuous, and that can be tailored to meet the needs of the community
  • “How many electives in family medicine do I need to be competitive?"

    • Canadian schools do not require an on-site elective to secure a residency spot
    • A diversity of electives demonstrates exposure to the many facets of family medicine
    • Every elective helps students discern their most suitable career direction and can be used to support family medicine as a first choice
  • “How do I get a strong reference letter?”

    • Residency programs value competencies described in the CanMEDS-FM Roles, so look for referees who can provide examples of how you have embodied the Roles
    • Preceptors with whom you have spent quality time are a good option
    • A summary of memorable cases you had with preceptors is a helpful tool to provide to them
    • A referee’s title within the faculty is not as important as the quality of the letter’s content
  • “What is the role of a plus one after residency?”

    • Enhanced skills programs and Certificates of Added Competence expand—not narrow—the scope of services provided by a family physician
    • Enhanced skills programs supplement core residency training to help physicians improve access to care for identified patients/communities
    • Enhanced skills programs can be used to fulfill both a community need and a personal interest
    • Family physicians who acquire enhanced competencies integrate their expanded scope within comprehensive family medicine practices
  • “Is having a family practice stimulating work?”

    • Family medicine is a specialty that brings new experiences each day. It includes the comprehensive, continuous medical care of all people, ages, life stages, and presentations
    • Family medicine includes leadership, advocacy, teaching, research, and quality improvement
    • Many family doctors are involved in medical education and clinical leadership
    • Family medicine is versatile. You can tailor it to your stage of life as well as the communities you serve.
  • “Will I do more paperwork than patient care as a family physician?”

    No. Family doctors spend between 10 and 19 hours per week on administrative tasks. Administrative burden is widely recognized as an issue and there are multiple initiatives across Canada to reduce it. The College of Family Physicians of Canada advocates for reduced and shifted administrative responsibilities so that family doctors can spend their time where it’s needed most – direct patient care.

  • “Is family medicine a back-up option?”

    • Family medicine should not be considered a back-up option
    • Truly consider disciplines in which you could see yourself working, learning, and growing, and rank your decisions accordingly
    • Family medicine is the specialty for those who value providing relationship-centred care with patients over time, are interested in adapting to meet care needs, and are excited to contribute to a broad scope of practice that they know holds value in the health care system
  • “Will I be practising on my own?”

    • Family doctors typically collaborate in teams with other family doctors and allied health professionals to provide the best care for patients.

This content was prepared by medical students for the CFPC’s Undergraduate Education Committee, in conjunction with CFPC staff. Special thanks to Caitlyn Davidson (University of Saskatchewan), Julia Petta (Western University), Alexandra Raynard (Western University), and Ramita Verma (Queen’s University) for their assistance and input. Some content has been summarized to fit the website.

Shaw E, Oandasan I, Fowler N, eds. CanMEDS-FM 2017: A competency framework for family physicians across the continuum. Mississauga, ON: The College of Family Physicians of Canada; 2017.
Canadian Medical Association. Physician Data Centre. 2020.

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