How to Become a Surgeon in Canada: 10 Best Steps

A surgeon who specializes in a particular area of medicine, such as cardiology, neurology, or any specialized medical area, is known as a specialist surgeon. All doctors who specialize have completed years of school and training in their respective fields.

But there are stages you need to take before learning how to become a surgeon who focuses in a certain field. We will look at how to become a surgeon in Canada.

You must first enroll in medical school. Depending on the state or country you are in, you must first earn a degree in premedical science before pursuing a medical degree to become a doctor. Typically, it takes four years to complete your undergraduate degree and another four to complete medical school.

Second, before entering a particular specialty of medicine, it is desirable to have several years of practical experience as a general practitioner.

Third, you’ll need to submit an application for admission as a candidate to the surgical department’s residency program at a medical school.

The requirements for admission to a general surgery residency program are stringent, and competition is typically severe. Five to eight years could pass during this training. You can then earn certification in that area of surgery at that moment.

One of the most exciting careers in medicine is that of a surgeon. However, the process is not simple and involves numerous steps that must be followed, and you need to go through a lengthy process.

Look no further for information on how to become a surgeon in Canada. Today, in this blog, we will walk you through the entire process, explain the two main paths to becoming a physician, and try to highlight the major differences between the two paths.

There are 17 approved medical schools in Canada that prepare students to practice as doctors or surgeons and care for patients. Unfortunately, some medical schools have strict entrance requirements, making it challenging for candidates to be accepted.

In fact, according to Maclean’s, less than 10% of candidates were typically admitted by the majority of medical schools across the nation as of 2016.

Requirements for Admission to Canadian Medical Schools 

Canada’s medical schools have a reputation for being challenging to get into, which is partly owing to a shortage of open spaces for medical students but is also a direct result of the demanding application process that candidates must go through.

This procedure entails:

  • completing a related, science-based bachelor’s degree program with accreditation.

  • demonstrating a grade point average (GPA) in an undergraduate program that is higher than average.

  • having a high Medical College Admission Test score (MCAT).

  • gaining important professional, managerial, and volunteer experience.

  • Writing an essay outlining professional aspirations in medicine and events from one’s own life that demonstrate talent and drive.

  • talking about abilities, objectives, and experience with medical school officials during an interview.

What qualities do I need to have in order to become a surgeon?

Part of knowing how to become a surgeon in Canada is knowing what qualities you need. Specific traits and outlooks that contribute to fulfilling careers are present in successful surgeons.

There are other qualities you must have in addition to a strong desire to become a surgeon and the tenacity to stick with it for ten or more years of formal training. Without them, working in surgery might be difficult and unfulfilling.

  • You must be able to manage in addition to being quick on your feet, problem-solving, and working well under high levels of stress.

  • conditions of crisis and emergency.

  • long and difficult hours.

  • continuous, uninterrupted concentration over extended periods.

  • working both with your hands and brains.

You should also have:

  • adroitness on the body. Although you can improve your dexterity with practice, some dexterity is an innate talent. If you have struggled with dexterity your entire life, surgery can be challenging for you.

  • the reverence for the human body and life. Although a career in surgery may offer you a very luxurious living, your main driving force must be a love and respect for the human body and life if you want to succeed. Patients might not trust you if you don’t have it because they won’t believe you.

  • passion for anatomy Surgery is built on a solid understanding of anatomy.

  • Intelligence. To find out if you have the mental capacity to become a doctor or surgeon, you may find it helpful to submit yourself for psychiatric evaluation if you struggle academically despite making daily efforts.

The Major Routes to Becoming a Surgeon In Canada?

There are primarily two routes to becoming a surgeon in Canada.

One is the well-known route, which is a typical route, and the other is a different route. Let’s start with the conventional route; in this route, a Canadian citizen stays home to finish their studies and enroll in medical school.

Graduate from medical school, pass the MCCQE1 exam, continue on to postgraduate study, finish the residency program, and begin working as a medical specialist in Canada after graduation.

Those who hold Canadian citizenship and are either graduating from medical school or are experienced specialists who would like to come to Canada and continue their medical practice here are included in an alternative pathway, as are those Canadian citizens who leave Canada to study medicine in foreign medical universities and return to Canada after graduation to practice medicine in Canada.

The List of Steps on How to Become a Surgeon in Canada

The typical road to becoming a surgeon in Canada is short, easy, and exempt from the NAC exam requirement.

But there are a number of steps that need to be taken, like graduating from medical school and passing the MCQQE1 test. Here is a close-up of the shared path.

1. Obtain a college degree

You must finish college before starting your path to becoming a doctor in Canada. According to the guidelines established by the Medical Council of Canada (MCC), it must be at least a bachelor’s degree.

However, the vast majority of medical schools will favor a degree in a scientific field. Even if having a bachelor of science (BS) degree isn’t always required, it will always be advantageous for you because it will make it easier for you to comprehend the material covered in medical school.

For people who don’t have a fundamental grasp of biology and chemistry ideas, it could be difficult. There will be a list of prerequisite courses for medical schools across the board. Make sure to enroll in these classes during your degree program since they will primarily be in the science discipline.

(2) Acceptance Into A Medical School

First, choose the medical school you want to attend from the 17 that are listed with the Canadian Medical Council. To study at the majority of these institutions, you must reside in the same province.

Therefore, you should evaluate the needs of each institution on your own before making a choice. To learn about the specific requirements of the institution, you should speak with the administration.

The majority of medical schools in Canada need the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test), therefore you should be ready for it before submitting an application. Because of the uniform online application processes used by Canadian medical schools, the process is now fairly simple.

Since only around 25% of applicants are accepted into Canadian medical schools, your qualifications must be somewhat stronger than normal. To ensure entrance, a good grade point average (GPA) is essential.

Medical school takes four years to complete. The first two years focus mostly on theoretical topics, with a strong emphasis on classroom and laboratory work.

In the following two years, you will receive hands-on training in clinics where you will observe patient care and clinical decision-making while being supervised by a qualified medical professional.

3- Pass Exams for the MCCQE1

The third step on how to become a surgeon in Canada is to pass the Medical Council of Canada Qualifying Examination (MCCQE) Part 1 exam as one of the requirements for getting a medical license in Canada.

Before you are allowed to practice as an independent doctor in Canada, you must pass this exam to demonstrate your medical knowledge, proficiency, and clinical decision-making abilities.

One of the most important steps on the path to becoming a doctor is passing the MCCQE part 1 exam. However, many people found the MCCQE1 exam to be very difficult.

They are unsure of where to start because the Medical Council of Canada’s (MCC) objectives are so broad. The MCCQE1 exam is difficult for a lot of people, but it is not a difficult test to pass.

Studying all of the MCC objectives and practicing with high-yield questions and clinical cases from a question bank are the most crucial parts of a successful test preparation strategy.

Given that the MCCQE1 exam is based on the MCC goal, candidates should have a solid understanding of the MCCQE1 objectives. They will undergo a thorough examination of those goals.

The important factor in achieving success is understanding the MCCQE1 exam. A solid study strategy and a combination of test-taking skills, particularly time management, are required to successfully complete the MCC objectives because the exam is computer-based and timed.

For those who are unprepared and unfamiliar with the exam format, the MCCQE1 exam can be difficult. To prevent this, candidates should become familiar with the MCCQE1 test style and prepare with a question bank that contains questions as similar as possible to those they will see on the real exam.

People frequently lack a solid study approach for the MCCQE1 exam or underestimate the importance of using a test-taking technique that involves rehearsing questions and providing accurate answers in under a minute. No matter how much time you put into studying, passing this exam will be challenging without a solid study plan.

Since it takes a long time to study for and prepare for this exam, most students begin studying for it during their medical school years. To prepare for it, use the online question bank and study notes.

4- Apply for a Canadian medical residency

The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), electronic service or, to put it another way, an online application, is how you apply for residency positions in Canada.

You’ll be given a deadline to upload all required documents, choose the medical program you’re interested in and the province where you’ll practice as a doctor, and the system will then send your application to that program. You will be contacted for an interview if you match.

Reviewing residency interview preparation advice and researching certain programs are important before the interview. If you are considering how to become a surgeon in Canada, this is a very vital step.

5. Finish your residency.

Before you can practice as an independent doctor in accordance with MCC regulations, you still need to finish a residency program after passing the MCCQE1 exam and receiving your medical license.

This step is a vital step on how to become a surgeon in Canada. It enables you to receive training and adjust to real-life medical difficulties early in your career while being mentored by more experienced doctors.

Depending on the medical specialization chosen, the residency period varies. The residency period lasts for two years for general practitioners but up to six years for specialists.

You could also need to extend your residency by an additional 2 to 3 years if you decide to pursue a subspecialty.

In order to become a doctor in Canada, you must put in at least ten years of diligent study and effort during the residency and academic phases of the procedure.

Passing the MCCQE1 exam in particular calls for a lot of commitment, perseverance, and resource management. By doing that, you can qualify to practice medicine in Canada, live a respectable life, assist people, and advance your career. Having seen the steps on how to become a surgeon in Canada, you might want to know the programs for medical professionals returning from service.

Programs for medical professionals returning from service:

Doctors in the Physician Return of Service (ROS) program consent to practice for up to five years in a community that qualifies in exchange for their residency training.

In general, the ROS program aids in maintaining a steady physician supply, increasing physician distribution to improve treatment for Canadians, and enhancing access to physicians across Canada, particularly in regions with a dearth of physicians.

The Alternative Route To Medical School In Canada:

The alternate route to becoming a doctor or physician in Canada is difficult, and you do need to pass the NAC exam. This approach requires a number of procedures to be completed, including registering in the system and passing the MCCQE1 and NAC exams.

However, these stages are significantly simpler than in the past, when completing the MCCQE2 was also necessary for admission to some Canadian provinces.

The good news is that MCCQE2 was suspended and then permanently removed from International Medical Graduates as a result of COVID-19 (IMGs). IMGs who have worked in the field have more options than those who have just graduated from a foreign medical school.

After going over some fundamental terms and important information below, let’s take a closer look at the alternate route to becoming a doctor in Canada and examine those options.

1. Verify Your Eligibility:

Candidates for residency positions must be Canadian citizens or permanent residents and hold medical degrees from institutions that are not accredited by a Canadian body.

2. Registration:

You must first create an account on, after which you must go to application and eligibility to confirm that your medical school satisfies the requirements using your account.

Once your medical school has been verified as eligible, you will be asked to submit an official identity as well as the other necessary documents.

You must be aware that you can only apply if your medical degree or diploma is being confirmed, has already been validated, or is in the process of being verified. If not, you must first verify your medical degree.

3. Succeed in the MCCQE1 examinations

One prerequisite for obtaining a Canadian medical license is passing the MCCQE1 exam. You must succeed on the MCCQE Part 1 test. Before you are allowed to practice as an independent doctor or physician in Canada, you must pass this exam to demonstrate your medical knowledge, proficiency, and clinical decision-making abilities.

4. Apply for a Canadian medical residency:

The Canadian Resident Matching Service (CaRMS), electronic service or, to put it another way, an online application, is how you apply for residency positions in Canada.

You’ll be given a deadline to upload all required documents, choose the medical program you’re interested in and the province where you’ll practice as a doctor, and the system will then send your application to that program.

You will be contacted for an interview if you match. Reviewing residency interview preparation advice and researching certain programs are important before the interview.

After passing the MCCQE1 and NAC tests, IMGs with extensive medical training and years of experience can apply for the Ready-To-Practice program.

5. Finish your residency.

Before you can practice as an independent doctor in accordance with MCC regulations, you still need to finish a residency program after passing the MCCQE1 exam and earning your doctor or physician license.

It enables you to receive training and adjust to real-life medical difficulties early in your career while being mentored by more experienced doctors. Depending on your specialty, the length of your residency varies.

The residency period lasts for two years for general practitioners but up to six years for specialists. You could also need to extend your residency by an additional 2 to 3 years if you decide to pursue a subspecialty.

6. Programs for medical professionals returning from service:

IMGs can practice medicine for up to five years in a community that qualifies by enrolling in the Physician Return of Service (ROS) program.

As previously indicated, the ROS program helps to guarantee a steady physician supply, broaden physician distribution to improve care for Canadians, and improve access to physicians across the country, particularly in areas with a low physician supply.

Fundamental Ideas Used in Surgery

Every surgeon follows certain basic rules in the operating room, regardless of their surgical specialty or the type of operation they do.

Human tissue responds to traumas in predictable ways because it has inherent qualities. So, over time, a set of recommendations for fostering the best healing emerged.

Every surgeon adheres to what is known as the “fundamental principles of surgery,” regardless of specialty or type of surgery done.

  • Preoperative evaluation and diagnosis. An erroneous diagnosis could lead to a needless, ineffective, or inappropriate course of treatment.

  • the analysis of further non-surgical therapy options. Surgery should only be used as a last resort because it is typically invasive.

  • a suitable treatment regimen. It’s said that skilled surgeons always perform two operations. Before doing the actual surgery, they mentally prepare and plan the procedure. Tracings, computer-assisted simulations, model surgery, and other tools aid the surgeon in this planning phase.

  • minimal intrusion Think about alternatives to open surgery whenever you can.

  • Compared to open surgery, scope-assisted surgery.

  • radiology/angiography intervention.

Surgical procedures to the heart requiring the opening of the chest are being replaced in some instances by minimally invasive procedures performed by accessing the inside of an artery and performing the relevant procedure with radiographic (X-ray) assistance.

  • excellent optical conditions Clear visibility of the region being operated on is essential for surgeons.

  • Exposure to the surgical site. This takes place when the surgical incision is made, and dissection is performed to reach the intended surgical site.

  • Retraction is the “pulling” away of tissue to offer the surgeon maximum exposure to the surgical site.

  • Surgical assistants and nursing staff have noted that successful surgeons always seem to complain about the light.

  • Suctioning and sponging. This is necessary to remove excess blood which may obscure the operative field.

Some noted physicians in history were handicapped by blindness, but not so with surgeons.

Handle tissue gently causing as little injury as possible. This amounts to having respect for the human body as well as an understanding of the processes involved in the repair and healing of wounds.

Proper control of bleeding within the limits of:

  • Minimal electrocautery.
  • Minimal suturing.
  • Minimal sponging.

Every action must be purposeful. For safety and economic reasons, in the operating theater, time is of the essence. Do not waste time in the OT.

  • Sterility and asepsis. All surgical instruments must be sterile (the complete absence of microorganisms), and the operative field must be as aseptic (minimizing and weakening microorganisms) as possible.

Other principles applied are not surgical in nature, but are still critical to patient comfort, trust and confidence.

  • Anatomical considerations. A surgeon needs to have a detailed knowledge of the structure of the human body.

  • Physiological considerations. A surgeon must have a comprehensive understanding of how the human body functions.

  • Patient considerations. It’s critical for surgeons and members of the surgical team to take into account the fears and preconceived ideas of the patient about surgery and its outcomes.

  • Social. Certain diseases are more prevalent in specific socioeconomic groups than in others.

  • Religious. The transfusion of blood or transplantation of organs is a taboo in some religious groups.

  • Financial. What are the economic implications of the proposed operation to the patient/healthcare organization?

  • Expectations. What is the expected outcome and success of the procedure?

  • Communication. It is essential the patient understands the parameters, risks, and limitations of surgery and anesthesia. Providing information on scars and other conditions that may be present after surgery is necessary so that the patient is as prepared as possible for the operation and what may transpire when it is finished.

  • Information. This includes data about the proposed procedure and any alternatives. The patient must also be informed about any potential pain or discomfort that may be experienced, as well as given pre- and postoperative instructions.

  • Implications. Will the patient be able to continue with normal activities e.g., studies/work/sport/hobbies? If not, will the condition be temporary or permanent? Does the patient need a medical certificate?
  • Complications. What can go wrong during and after the operation?

  • Prognosis. What is the success rate of the surgical procedure, and for how long will the benefits of the operation last?

Various Disciplines in the Field of Surgery

The American College of Surgeons recognizes multiple surgical specialties. As you consider the type of specialty that is best for you, it’s helpful to review your available options.

General surgery is performed by surgeons trained to manage surgical procedures covering almost any area of the body. Within general surgery are subspecialties that include the following:

  • Colon and Rectal Surgery is also known as proctology. The focus is on the diagnosis and treatment of disorders such as inflammatory bowel disease, pelvic floor dysfunction, and colorectal cancer.
  • Ear, nose, and throat surgery, also known as otolaryngology – diseases, and disorders affecting the ears and structures within the respiratory system.
  • Maxillofacial and Oral surgery also includes dental surgery – treatment for patients with face, facial skeleton, mouth, and related organ injuries, diseases, and disorders.
  • Neurosurgery – disorders involving the brain and spinal cord. Read the Path to Becoming a Neurologist or Neurosurgeon.
  • Obstetrics and gynecology – medical and surgical care for pregnant patients, including the development of the fetus and disorders of female reproductive organs.
  • Ophthalmic surgery – diseases and disorders of the eye, vision, and contents of the eye socket.
  • Orthopedic surgery – anything having to do with the musculoskeletal system including bones, muscles, and joints. Subspecialties of orthopedics are:
  • Foot and ankle
  • Hand – includes upper extremities.
  • Joint replacement – mostly the hips and knees, but can include the ankles and shoulders.
  • Oncology – treatment for benign and malignant tumors of the musculoskeletal system.
  • Pediatrics – orthopedic conditions in children.
  • Spine – manages the care and treatment of back problems.
  • Sports – focuses on patients who are athletes and individuals suffering from athletic injuries.
  • Trauma orthopedics is a growing field. Patients are individuals with critical or multiple injuries to the musculoskeletal system.
  • Pediatric surgery – disorders for individuals still considered children, including teenagers. There are multiple subspecialties within this area.
  • Neonatal – newborn care.
  • Prenatal – fetal care.
  • Trauma – Because children take lots of risks and end up hurting themselves, pediatric surgeons frequently face situations involving traumatic injuries sustained by children.
  • Oncology – malignant tumors and benign growths.
  • Plastic and maxillofacial surgery – cosmetic procedures and the repair of body parts after the loss of tissue such as an ear. Thorough knowledge of the musculoskeletal system is critical.
  • Thoracic surgery – anything in the chest area, but primarily the heart and lungs.
  • Urology – manages benign and malignant medical and surgical disorders of the adrenal gland and the genitourinary system for both males and females.
  • Vascular surgery – treats diseases impacting the arteries and veins throughout the body. Hardening of the arteries may be the most common problem that vascular surgeons treat.

Types of Surgery

Once you become a surgeon, you may be called upon to perform one or all of the following types of procedures.

Open surgery is when a surgeon makes an incision with a scalpel, inserts instruments into the opening, and performs surgery.

An example of open surgery is a surgeon making an incision with a steel scalpel in the abdominal skin to perform a gastric operation.

  • Aspirations are a type of biopsy procedure where fluid and diseased tissue are removed by a needle for laboratory examination. An example of this is a breast biopsy where the tissue removed is sent to a lab to determine if it is cancerous.

  • Cryosurgery is a minimally invasive treatment where diseased tissue is destroyed by freezing it. Skin tumors, skin tags, and even freckles can be removed by this method of surgery.

  • Electrosurgery uses electrical instruments operating on high-frequency electric currents. Electric currents can harden tissue, or destroy it. In essence, a surgeon “burns” away diseased tissue, or growths, or make surgical incisions while the electric current seals off blood vessels at the same time, thus minimizing bleeding.

  • Laser surgery utilizes a laser beam to make bloodless cuts in tissue or to remove surface lesions. Lasers can be used for eye surgery, the removal of skin marks and small tumors.

  • Scope surgery is minimally invasive since it does not involve slitting open the body as a surgeon does in open surgery. Some common scope surgeries include laparoscopy, endoscopy, and colonoscopy.

  • Shockwaves are a noninvasive surgical technique where soundwaves are used to break apart kidney stones. However, the sound, or shockwaves come from outside the body. Currently, it is considered the surgery of choice to break apart large kidney stones.

  • Ultrasonic scalpels use soundwaves to make surgical incisions that minimize This type of surgery is used when extreme precision is needed to remove small and delicate tissues, but can also be used for large tissue removal.

Frontiers of Surgery

Medical science is always evolving. This section is also important for those searching for how to become a surgeon in Canada. Doctors and researchers are continually looking for ways to minimize risk, pain, infection, and healing time for patients. There are two types of surgery on the leading edge of medicine.

  • Robotic surgery. With the use of a camera and mechanical arms with surgical instruments attached to them, a surgeon can operate by sitting at a computer console.

    The console provides the surgeon with a magnified, three-dimensional view of the surgical site from which she or he controls the movement of the mechanical arms.

    The advantages of this technology include fewer complications, quicker recovery, and smaller, perhaps less visible scars. As robotic surgery is refined, it’s possible that surgery can be performed on a patient who is a long distance away, including operations on astronauts in space or soldiers on the battlefield.

  • Healthcare Informatics, formerly known as The Institute for Health Technology Transformation (iHT2) commissioned a video featuring Intuitive Surgical’s da Vinci Arm device. Dr. David Samadi of Mount Sinai School of Medicine explains the arm and gives his thoughts on the future of robotic surgery.

  • Tissue engineering/regenerative medicine. Although regenerative medicine does not yet play a significant role in treatment, it has the potential of transforming how surgery is approached.

    According to the National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering, the goal of tissue engineering is to develop, “biological substitutes that restore, maintain, or improve tissue function”. They developed a two-minute video on tissue engineering which you can see here:

Medical scientists can already grow specific types of tissue from the patient’s own cells, thereby avoiding the risk of rejection. The FDA has approved the use of artificial skin and cartilage, although their use in patients is still limited. The growing of an organ, such as a kidney from the patient’s own cells, appears to be just around the corner.

Frequently Asked Questions on How to Become a Surgeon in Canada

Here are some common questions people ask on how to become a surgeon in Canada.

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