Observation period


Please note that observation periods are not under the jurisdiction of the CMQ.

Practicing physicians are sometimes approached by international medical graduates (IMGs) who wish to complete an observation period in a hospital or office to familiarize themselves with medical practice in Québec. The Collège des médecins du Québec (CMQ) wishes to define the limits of an observation period in order to protect the public, the trainee and the host physician.

If you complete an observation period in a hospital or office, you may not perform any medical activity, be it a history, a physical examination, a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure or any other medical activity. As a trainee, you may accompany a physician during his clinical activities, but as an observer, and you may not perform any direct or indirect procedures for patients.

Doing your observation period, you must comply with all the rules that apply to physicians, including those governing professional secrecy. You must therefore respect the confidentiality of the information exchanged between the patient and his physician.

Note that the CMQ is not involved in the observation period process. If a physician wishes to host an applicant for an observation period in a hospital, he must contact his hospital’s Professional Services Division to find out what the procedure is and learn about the medicolegal aspects of participating in an observation period. Furthermore, the faculties of medicine are not involved in organizing or overseeing observation periods.

It is important to point out that the observation period is neither an assessment period, nor a training period, and it cannot be used to assess an applicant’s competence. IMGs cannot replace incomplete under- or postgraduate training with an observation period.

Apart from physicians who have a permit to practice in Québec or have a special authorization from the CMQ’s President and Chief Executive Officer, the only people authorized to perform medical activities in Québec are medical students enrolled in one of Québec’s four faculties of medicine and duly registered, as well as fellows and residents, in family medicine or another specialty, who have a valid registration certificate and training card.

This information is provided in order to clarify the limits of an observation period in the interest of the intern, the physician and the public.

Last update: October 17, 2017