The Geographical Distribution of Psychiatrists in Canada: Unmet Needs and Remedial Strategies
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Many efforts are underway to rationalize the process of manpower planning in psychiatry. A wide variation in the geographic distribution of psychiatrists remains. A multidimensional assessment of the needs of a population is recommended, based on the epidemiology of mental disorders, professional and institutional needs, consumer estimates, and the requirements of subgroups. Counting the number of vacant positions for psychiatrists can be misleading. Professional norms for the optimal access of a population to psychiatric services and standards for the quantity and/or quality of services provided need to be developed. Potential outcome measures are suggested, along with a three-tiered system of estimating geographic needs. Deterrent factors to an optimal geographic distribution of most professionals are reviewed, along with factors specific to our residency training programs. In the short term, the benefits and limitations of recruiting foreign-trained psychiatrists are compared with those of recruiting Canadian specialists. Complementary long term strategies include the provision of financial incentives, optimal working conditions, relevant training and maintenance of competence issues, and community support.
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