Are you a medical student who is rethinking your decision to become a clinical practitioner? Are you a resident who finds yourself wondering what the heck you’ve gotten yourself into? Or are you a practicing physician with a desire to try something new?
If you fall into one of these categories, you shouldn’t feel like you are stuck on your current path. Your education and experience can serve you well in a number of different careers.
Why would someone give up medicine?
Maybe the toll your medical career takes on your family is not something you are willing or able to tolerate. Perhaps it is not something your spouse or partner is willing to tolerate. Or, like more and more residents these days, you’ve realized that the business of medicine is not what it used to be. The bureaucratic web that doctors have to traverse every day often makes it difficult to focus on patient care, which can be very discouraging.
Recent studies indicate that as many as half of general surgery residents consider leaving medicine, and that the sleep deprivation, lifestyle compromises, and impact on personal relationships in residency, and in their future lives as surgeons, are the driving factors.
One doctor who left a primary care practice after four years of medical school, three years as a resident, and four years as a clinical practitioner, put it this way, “I found myself in a very desperate, empty place devoid of enjoyment, purpose, and happiness, and I knew I needed to fix it. I hung up my stethoscope in search of a saner, fulfilled life.” He says that one of the hardest parts of leaving medicine was admitting to his friends and family that he made a mistake. But in the end, staying in a career just because he was expected to, just wasn’t worth it.
Another doctor who left her practice says that she is never surprised that when she tells doctors that she left a career as a physician, their response is never to ask why, but to ask how. She believes that four factors are associated with physician burnout: lack of control over work, time demands, constant exposure to a chaotic environment, and a lack of alignment of administrator and physician values.
What to do Next
As we began exploring in the first article in this series, there are a lot of excellent career opportunities available for former doctors and former medical students, both in and out of the medical field. Here are some more ideas for anyone out there who is questioning their career choice.
Someone who has worked as a doctor has a unique view of what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to hospital administration. As a former doctor, you may be in a better position to influence administrative changes that can benefit doctors and patients than someone who has spent their entire career in hospital administration.
Often, administrators and doctors are at odds and see each other as adversaries with no common ground. If you choose medial administration as the next step in your career, you may be able to make some headway in changing these often dysfunctional relationships, and make a real difference in the lives of patients.
With the healthcare industry changing so dramatically, there is more and more call for consultants with medical backgrounds. One example is process improvement consultants who work with administrators and physicians to find ways to improve the quality of care, cut costs, better serve certain types of patients, like elderly or pediatric patients, and do all of it while still making a profit. Medical consultants like these gather quantitative and qualitative data from multiple sources, analyze the data, develop reports, create new practice guidelines, and recommend process improvements. This can be a great career for former medical students or doctors who want to improve the business of healthcare and the quality of patient care.
Consultants who specialize in improving clinical practices are also in high demand. For these consultants, an app, like the XebraPro clinical database and search engine, is a great resource. These consultants are often tasked with analysing real-life cases and providing expert analysis and recommendations for how care can improved.
If you are a medical student of physician who is having second thoughts about your career, we hope that this series gives you some confidence that you’ve got a lot of options available to you. In the third and final installment of this series, we’ll explore five final career change opportunities.