Recertifying as a doctor in Canada: international medical graduates and the journey from entry to adaptation

Med Educ. 2008 Jan;42(1):53-60. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2007.02903.x. Epub 2007 Dec 13.


Objective: Globalisation and severe doctor shortages in many countries have resulted in increased numbers of international medical graduates (IMGs) in medical training programmes in major recipient countries such as Canada. Much of the literature on IMGs is written from the perspective of the doctor workforce. Less is known about the recertification training experiences of IMGs in recipient countries. This study aims to describe the recertification training experiences of IMGs in Canada in order to help medical training programmes understand how to facilitate the integration of IMGs into recipient medical communities.

Methods: A phenomenological (qualitative) research approach was undertaken for this study. International medical graduates undergoing recertification training in order to practise in Canada were individually interviewed about their experiences. Data collection and analysis followed the procedures of interpretive phenomenology.

Results: Twelve IMGs participated. Analysis of the interviews revealed 4 themes that typified IMG recertification training experiences: training entry barriers; and a 3-phase process of loss, disorientation and adaptation. International medical graduates must complete this 3-phase process in order to feel fully integrated into their professional environments.

Conclusions: This study provided a description of IMGs' training experiences during certification for practice in Canada and revealed that these experiences were characterised by a 3-phase process of adjustment. Using this framework, a series of recommendations were proposed for medical training programmes to help IMGs with this process.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adaptation, Psychological
  • Canada
  • Certification / organization & administration*
  • Education, Medical, Graduate / organization & administration*
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / organization & administration*
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / psychology
  • Foreign Medical Graduates / standards
  • Health Personnel / psychology
  • Humans