Fewer medical school graduates are opting for a career in family medicine, a choice some doctors say may boil down to finances.

Despite there being a shortage of family doctors in Canada — 1.3 million Ontarians alone don’t have a family physician — figures from the Canadian Resident Matching Service show the number of medical school graduates listing family medicine as their first choice of specialty has been on a steady decline for almost a decade.

Dr. Kamila Premji, a family doctor and assistant professor in the faculty of medicine at the University of Ottawa, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday the training required to become a physician is “very intense.”

“You’re learning a high volume of complex material, you’re working very long hours when you’re doing your clinical rotations and I think that that can take a toll on some medical students as well,” she said.

Graduates can have tens of thousands of dollars in student debt, and Premji said compensation in family medicine tends to be lower compared to other medical specialties.

Working in a community-based speciality like family medicine also doesn’t come with the same support that a doctor may get in a hospital setting with a team of health professionals.

There are also leases, hiring, employment law and taxes that a family doctor has to consider, Premji said.

“I think that when medical students are looking at these choices, these factors are very much front of mind, and actually surveys have demonstrated that,” she said.

But on the other side, Premji said she chose to become a family doctor in part because of the variety of patients she gets to see, from newborns to the elderly.

Family medicine also is unique in that you can build relationships with your patients through the course of their lives, she said.

Dr. Rachelle Beanlands, a resident in family medicine, told CTV’s Your Morning on Tuesday the specialty felt like a “natural progression” of her love for people and medicine.

“It’s the place where you get to know the people, as well as the medicine, and you really get to be an expert on people and on families,” she said.

But Beanlands is also mindful of the stress that can come with a career in medicine, saying she hopes to build her practice up slowly in order to avoid burnout on the job.

Exhaustion among health-care workers gained widespread attention during the COVID-19 pandemic, and experts say the issues have only continued.

Some emergency rooms in Canada are closing due to staffing shortages and Canadian Medical Association president Dr. Katharine Smart told CTV News Atlantic in May the rate of physician and nurse burnout is double what it was pre-pandemic.

Beanlands said it isn’t just physicians and nurses who are feeling burnt out, but also personal support workers and others working in health care.

“I think that COVID really brought that to light, unfortunately. It was a conversation that was starting to be had in medical circles, but now it is at the forefront and something that needs to be acknowledged,” Beanlands said.

Watch the full interviews with Dr. Kamila Premji and Dr. Rachelle Beanlands at the top of the article.

With files from CTV News

This content was originally published here.