Practicing physicians are sometimes approached by international medical graduates (IMGs) or other people who would like to complete an observation period in a hospital or office to familiarize themselves with medical practice in Quebec. The Collège des médecins du Québec 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 activities, be it a patient history, a physical examination of a patient, consultation of a medical record or examination or test results, a diagnostic or therapeutic procedure. As a trainee, you may accompany a physician during their 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 relating to professional secrecy and the Code of ethics of physicians. You must therefore respect the confidentiality of the information exchanged between the patient and their physician.
If a physician wishes to host an applicant for an observation period in a hospital, they must contact their hospital’s Professional Services Division to find out what the procedure is and learn about the medicolegal aspects of participating in an observation period.
The Collège is not involved in the observation period process. 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 Quebec or a special authorization from the Collège, the only people authorized to perform medical activities in Quebec are medical students enrolled in one of Quebec’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 trainee, the physician and the public.