Finding a primary health-care provider

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Read about tips and tricks for finding a primary health-care provider on your own.

Key points

  • A primary care provider is a health-care practitioner who can help you manage most aspects of your health care.
  • Most provinces and territories in Canada have a health navigation services that can help you in your search for your own primary care provider.
  • If you cannot find a primary care provider, it can be helpful to attend the same walk-in clinic each time you need to see a doctor.

What is a primary care provider?

A primary care provider is a health-care provider who is trained to care for your general health. They can help you manage most aspects of your health care including your physical, mental and emotional health.

A primary care provider can diagnose and treat acute illness (like an ear infection) and chronic illnesses (like diabetes). They also provide routine health screenings and counselling on lifestyle changes including recommendations for changing your diet and exercise routines.

Much of a primary care provider’s job is to help prevent health issues before they happen. This is why it is important to see the same provider consistently so that they can get to know your health history and make more informed health recommendations for you. Part of a primary care provider’s job is also to refer you to a specialist if you need specific health care that requires more specialized attention.

Finding a primary care provider

It is important to have a primary care provider to help manage your routine health care, especially as you become more independent. However, finding a primary care provider in Canada can be difficult, particularly if you live in a remote area. If you do not have a primary care provider, below are some tips on how to find one:

  1. Register with the health navigation service in your province or territory. These services can refer you to a local doctor or nurse practitioner who is accepting new patients. See the resources section below for a list of programs and how to register.
  2. Ask a family member, friend or neighbour if they know of a primary care provider who is accepting new patients. You can also reach out to your social media networks for recommendations.
  3. Look up local health-care providers’ offices in your area and call them directly to ask if they are taking new patients.
  4. Check local advertisements in the newspaper and online for new doctors or nurse practitioners in your area.
  5. If you are already seeing a specialist, ask if they can help connect you with a primary care provider.
  6. The College of Physicians and Surgeons website for your province may have a “Find a Physician” database that you can search by specialty, physician’s name, city or postal code.
  7. Call your local hospitals and ask if they have a family practice unit. If not, they may be able to direct you to a community health centre or clinics and practices that are accepting new patients.
  8. If you are a new immigrant to Canada, call your local settlement agency and ask if they have a list of health-care practitioners who are accepting new patients or who speak your language.
  9. Contact a family-medicine teaching hospital, where you can be seen by medical residents who are training to become family physicians. If any of the residents decide to open their own practices, they may take you on board as a new patient.
  10. In the month of July, search university websites that publish lists of graduating family physicians who might be opening their own practices.

If you cannot find a primary care provider, it is recommended that you go to the same walk-in clinic each time you need to see a health-care provider. The clinic will keep a record of your visits, prescriptions and health concerns, which will help inform any new providers of your health history during your appointments. You can also contact your province or territory’s free telehealth provider for any health-care inquiries you might have.

For more information on what to expect when receiving adult care, and how to prepare for taking charge of your own care, see Transitioning to adult care.

Can my parents help me find a primary health-care provider?

Your parents or guardian can also use these helpful tips to find a primary health-care provider for you and your family. Share Finding a primary health-care provider from AboutKidsHealth with them.

Last updated: August 16th 2021