Maximizing Your Allocated Holiday

A guide to maximizing your time off in residency!

From Day 1 of residency you will be told to book your time off early! The reason for this is that our PARO contract offers us a very generous amount of time off each year and there are some additional perks we get as a family medicine residents! With that said the majority of residents will finish the year without maximizing their time off. The purpose of this guide is to give you information on the different types of time-off requests and some helpful hints to maximize them.

How do I request vacation or other time off?

Step 1) Log into the uOttawa Leave Portal here

Step 2) Click on “Request” under the  LOA Heading:

Step 3) You will then see a form you can use to request vacation


NOTE: You have to submit a new form for each chunk of vacation time requested. As an example, to request 1 week on an FM block followed by 1 week of CTU, you need to submit twice.

How do I see how much vacation I have left?

Click on the “Request  Summary” button on the same page where you request vacation, in order to see how many vacation/professional and other days you still have remaining and available to use for further requests.

For full rules on how vacation/professional/exam leave days are applied, please read the relevant parts of the PARO contract.

General tips

  • Start early: you have the potential for 6-7 weeks of time off each year. Most inpatient rotations will only let you take a maximum of 5 work days + 2 weekends off per block. Therefore you need to take time off early in residency and do it frequently or you will finish the year with left over days.
  • Use it or lose it: Vacation days don’t roll over from one year to the next. You need to use all your allocated days off between July 1 and June 30 of the following year, or you lose it. This is why it’s so important to start early and plan ahead. It’s best to submit vacation, professional and research day requests as early as possible to maximize your chances of approval.
  • Plan ahead: we recommend using a spreadsheet to keep track of all your time-off requests (see end of document) including a running tally of your remaining days so you don’t forget. Each rotation requires a minimum number of days worked (usually 14) so when planning don’t take 1 week of vacation and 4 professional days because you will be denied. Helpful hint: on inpatient rotations (e.g. Hospitalist) there are 4 residents and 4 weeks of rotation. Since you can only have one resident off in a week you should submit your time off request early to ensure you get the days you want off
  • Make long weekends: as you will read below you can take professional or research days individually. We recommend using these to take off a Thursday and Friday, put in a no call request for the weekend and BOOM you’ve bought yourself a 4 day vacation. No call requests are not guaranteed but with that said most people have no difficulty (especially on FM).

Vacation (4 weeks)

  • You have 28 vacation days every year, divided into 20 weekdays and 8 weekend days.
  • You’re guaranteed not to be on call on the weekends where you have vacation booked. The same can’t be said of “no call” requests, which are considered a “favor” and aren’t guaranteed
  • Most blocks will let you take 1 week of vacation time, however 2 week vacations are possible if you straddle the last week of one block with the first week of the following block
  • Helpful hint: if you are doing back to back family medicine blocks you can take 2 weeks of vacation in the same block!

Holidays, lieu days, and float days (at least 1 per year)

  • Lieu day: if you work or are on call for any part of a holiday (New Year’s, Family day, Good Friday, Victoria day, Canada day, August Civic Holiday, Labour day, or Thanksgiving day) then you are entitled to take a “day off in lieu” at any point in the following 90 days.
  • Helpful hint: if you work an overnight emerg shift (e.g. midnight – 8am) or you are on call on a Sunday going into a holiday Monday, you would be entitled to a lieu day
  • Lieu days are also given for training and orientation activities that occur before July 1 of PGY-1. For example, in 2019, PGY-1s were allowed to submit lieu days for Epic training, DFM/Unit orientation, and uOttawa PGME orientation.
  • Float day: PARO contract allows you to take one “floating holiday” at any point in the year.
  • Christmas/New Year’s: all housestaff are entitled to 5 consecutive days off during the 12-day period encompassing Christmas Day and New Year’s Day. These 5 days account for Christmas Day, New Year’s Day, Boxing Day and two weekend days. Each resident must get either Christmas or New Year’s Day off. Note that you do not get additional lieu days for working on either of the statutory holidays during the period. Helpful hint: for most rotations you will be able to request the 5-day period you take off

Professional days (7 days)

  • Although intended for professional development (seminar, course, conference, etc.) you can actually use these to do whatever you want. You can take up to seven “professional days” per year either individually or consecutively (e.g. some people use all 7 in a row to take a week of vacation while others will take 1-2 at a time)
  • As per PARO, weekends are not supposed to be considered “working days” so you should not have to use these on a weekend, BUT, emerg will not take no call requests so you must use a professional day on a weekend if you need guaranteed time off
  • Helpful hint: use only one professional day on an emerg weekend but get the full weekend off! Since you are guaranteed two weekends off a block, if you use one professional day on a weekend you’ve bought yourself the whole weekend off

Research days (6-12 days over 2 years)

  • Over your two years you must complete a Family Medicine Research and Scholarly Project (FMRSP) for which you are entitled to days off to complete the project depending on how it is classified: scholarly (6 days over 2 years) or research (12 days over 2 years)
  • Research days can carry over to the next year (you do not have to use half of the research days in PGY-1 and the other half in PGY-2)
  • The program does have specific date stipulations on when you can take your research days so make sure you are following their deadlines (plan ahead!)
  • Helpful hint: like professional days you don’t actually have to prove you completed research on these days so technically you could use them to make long weekends (as long as you do get your research completed at other times!)

Exam Leave

You’re entitled to time off to take any US or Canadian licensing exams. These include:

  • MCCQE1 and MCCQE2
  • USMLE Steps 1, 2 and 3

You’re also entitled to take additional days for reasonable travel time to get to your exam. For example, if you’re taking the USMLE Step 2 CS in Los Angeles, it’s reasonable to request a day before your exam day and a day afterwards for travel time.

Note: You can’t take days off to study for exams such as the MCCQE or USMLE. Study time is only allowed for the CFPC or a Royal College certifying exam (see next section).

CFPC exam study time (7 days)

  • You may take seven consecutive days off during one of the four weeks preceding the CFPC certification examination. You will see Exam Study Leave as an option when requesting leave.

Educational requirements

  • As residents we have to take a variety of mandatory courses such as Residents as Teachers (RATS), ACLS and Neonatal Resuscitation Program (NRP). As these are mandatory requirements they do not count against our time off requests and they have their own section to apply under in the online system
  • Helpful hint: these courses do count as a day worked towards your minimum number of days so take them during less popular rotations. Be sure to apply early in the year as the spots fill up quickly (you will receive emails from PGME and the FM program when dates are available to book)

Get involved

  • PARO, OCFP, and CFPC: all of these organizations take first year reps! These positions require several meetings throughout the year for which the program will give you dedicated time off that does not count against your other PARO mandated time-off requests (use “other” in the online system when applying). Although you are often quite busy in these positions there is often spare time for you to enjoy your “academic vacation” away from Ottawa. Helpful hint: taking time off for these meetings counts against time away from the rotation so ensure you are meeting the minimum number of days if you happen to have a meeting in a block you take vacation!
  • CaRMS interviews: the program is always interested in having residents volunteer during CaRMS in January from 1-4 days. Again the program will allow you to take time off that does not count against your protected time off to volunteer. Helpful hint: if you are keen help interview be sure you aren’t taking vacation in January!

Time Off Requests – Tracking Template for 2020-2021

Time Off Requests – Tracking Template is a sample customizable form you can use to maximize your time off in 2020/2021!

uOttawa PGME block schedules for 2020/2021 and future years

List of Statutory Holidays (link to PARO contract)