Petition to delay/suspend the NAC Exam

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Dear International Medical Student or Graduate,

             The Medical Council of Canada has elected to proceed with the 2020 NAC exam despite the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. The NAC exam is solely for international medical students and graduates planning to apply to the Canadian Residency Match program. Mandatory 2 week self-isolation periods following international travel would effectively cause students to miss up to 4 weeks of their home university’s clinical rotations/programming (two weeks prior to the exam after travelling to Canada, and two weeks post-exam when travelling back to home University’s country). This announcement comes despite precedent set by the US to suspend Step 2 Clinical Skills exam for the next 12-18 months due to COVID-19 concerns. Please sign the petition below if you wish to ask that the NAC exam either be pushed to a future date when there are no self-isolation restrictions, changed to an online format, or cancelled indefinitely.

Thank you for your time and assistance in this matter,

North-American Irish Medical Student Association (NIMSA)

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To the Medical Council of Canada,

Re: Petition to Delay, Alter, or Suspend the NAC 2020 Exam

             The COVID-19 crisis has placed unprecedented stress on the medical school system, disrupting clinical rotations, board exams, and away electives. Despite precedent set by the United States with their suspension of the USMLE Clinical Skills exam and the Canadian CaRMS 2021 timeline being pushed back significantly, the Medical Council of Canada has announced that the NAC exam will go forward in early September 2020.

             At this time, a mandatory 2 week self-isolation following international travel is still in place. As international students will be resuming their clinical placements at respective non-Canadian Universities before the NAC test dates, students would need to complete a total of 4 weeks of self-isolation time in order to write this exam. This amount of time spent away from clinical rotations is simply not feasible, and could effectively exclude both Canadian and non-Canadian IMGs from applying to the 2021 Canadian residency match. If students choose to disregard their Universities policies and miss 4 weeks of programming they will not meet program requirements needed for graduation. Additionally, some countries have closed their borders to international travel altogether. For example, participants coming from Australia may be able to source a flight to Canada but may be barred from re-entering Australia until 2021. 

As stated by the Medical Council of Canada:

“Due to the current context, examination centres are subject to change. Furthermore, while we will make every effort to deliver the exam on the scheduled dates, we may need to cancel or change the date of the exam for reasons outside of our control. Such cancellation or date change could happen at any time, up to and including the day of the exam.”

This uncertainty in exam location and date further creates an impossible barrier to international medical students in writing this exam as international flights, self-isolation plans and accommodations cannot be booked on a whim in this unpredictable pandemic climate. The proceeding of this exam also raises concerns in terms of public health responsibility. International medical students may be travelling from any region of the world in order to write this exam in a select few Canadian cities. Although students may take every precaution they can in preventing transmission of COVID-19, there is no way to guarantee this. Ultimately the proceeding of this exam may contribute to a second-wave of COVID-19 and international spread of the virus. 

             This petition therefore asks that the NAC exam be suspended until such time as mandatory self-isolation periods following travel are no longer an international standard, or that the exam be suspended indefinitely and struck from being a requirement for this year’s match cycle. Alternatively, a new online format equivalent to the NAC be offered such that students do not need to travel in order to participate. 

Sincerely, 

International Medical Students and Graduates