Recruiting non-licensed MDs to non-medical positions

By Kate Dewhirst

Not everyone who trains as a physician practices medicine or continues to practice medicine. Some choose to work in a hospital environment but not as a physician such as in administration, research, information technology, finance, risk, law, policy, public relations, or interdisciplinary professional practice. Medical training can be an enormous advantage for a candidate applying to a non-medical role in a hospital.

There are three key issues hospitals need to manage when recruiting non-licensed physicians to non-medical roles within the hospital.

1. Clarify that they have a non-medical position and that they cannot provide medical services: Only physicians who are licensed, registered and insured (hold professional indemnity protection coverage) in Ontario are permitted to provide medical services within a hospital. When recruiting medically trained individuals to a non-medical position, you must make it clear that they must not engage in any activities where they are actually providing medical services or could be perceived as providing medical services. For example, no “touching” patients, no clinical consultations, no diagnosing.

2. Clarify that they are not part of the professional staff: The Public Hospitals Act regulates the relationship between hospitals and its physicians as members of the professional staff appointed annually by the board. That relationship is very different than a normal employment relationship or independent contractor agreement. It is important to clarify the position is not included in the category of the board-appointed professional staff. There are legal rights and responsibilities for professional staff that should not attach to a non-medical position on your team.

3. Clarify their professional use of titles such as “doctor” or “physician” or “surgeon” or “Dr.”: In a hospital environment, using any of these titles can be very confusing if someone is not practicing as a physician. Individuals not licensed to practice medicine in Ontario should exercise caution about holding themselves out as physicians. The Medicine Act affords title protection for using the titles of physician or surgeon or abbreviations for those who are members of the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario. Proactively clarify how they can reference their educational training of “MD” in your professional context so as to avoid misunderstandings. Please note that if the individual is also a Ph.D., they may rightfully use the title of “Dr.”, but you may wish them to clarify that they are not licensed as an MD.

Often medical affairs and the chief of staff are not involved when a department recruits and hires a medically trained candidate into a non-medical role. I recommend you remind your human resources leadership to consult with medical administration and the chief to ensure the right language is inserted into the offer letter to clarify the above issues.

If you are interested in more information on physician issues with hospitals, read the now free resource I wrote for the Ontario Hospital Association on Professional Staff Credentialing.

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