The 2006 Canadian Dermatology Association (CDA) member survey tracked the Canadian dermatology workforce. Information on use of nondermatologist extenders, impact of financial burden on practice style, and wait times was collected in the survey.
To survey Canadian dermatologists for specialty-specific physician resource information including demographics, workload, and future career plans and compare it to results from the 2001 survey. In addition, to explore three other areas not covered in the previous survey: patient access to dermatologic care through wait times, the use of nondermatologist extenders, and potential impact of educational financial debt on practice styles.
CDA members in 2006 were surveyed by mail. Follow-up mailings were done for nonresponders. Survey results were compared to those of the 2001 survey.
Thirty-six percent (216 of 602) of Canadian dermatologists responded (70% in 2001). The national distribution was identical between surveys. The median age increased to 55 years; two-thirds of dermatologists are male. The median retirement age remained at 65 years. There was a shift from rural to urban practice locations; 78% practice in private offices. Three-fifths of dermatologists do mainly medical dermatology, a decrease between surveys. Pediatric dermatology decreased 10%, whereas surgical dermatology increased 52% between surveys. Fewer practitioners perform noninsured services, and half as many perform research or hospital consultations or teach medical students. Financial debt burden had no impact on selection of practice style. Median wait times for nonurgent consultations doubled from 5 to 10 weeks; follow-up visits increased from 4 to 5 weeks; noninsured consultations increased from 4 to 5 weeks. The national median wait time for a third available consultation appointment was 42 days (range 7-161 days). Seventeen percent of dermatologists reported using nondermatologist extenders. Training programs produce only 60% of new practitioners needed to replace retirees over the next 5 years. Existing training programs are at full capacity, and only the creation of new programs can expand training capacity.
Although the face of Canadian dermatology shows a productive specialty committed to patient care, teaching, and research, the demographics of the Canadian baby boom generation will have a major negative impact on the effectiveness of Canadian dermatology in the service of the Canadian population. The attrition rate predicted in the 2001 survey and validated by the 2006 survey spotlights the critical imperative for the specialty to adapt to the future of a shrinking workforce in the face of expanding demand for its services.