The American Medical Association (AMA) recently released an article that reports one in five physicians say they will probably leave their practice within the next two years. One in three doctors and other medical professionals report they plan to cut down their work hours over the next 12 months.
These findings come from a paper publicized in the Mayo Clinic Proceedings in December last year. This paper’s objective was to look at the relationship between COVID-19-related stress and the future work intentions of doctors in a sample of 26,665 US health care workers from 124 institutions.
The survey focused on determining how many medical professionals intend to reduce their hours (or quit altogether) due to the pandemic. Out of the 9,266 physicians who took part in the survey, the reason(s) they gave for leaving their job included:
- High stress: 3,125
- Fear of exposure of transmission of COVID-19: 5,322
- Anxiety or depression: 2,385
- High workload: 3,670
- Burn out: 4,438
Mitigating factors were listed as:
- Feeling valued: 4,661
- Enhanced purpose: 3,330
The outcomes of these stress factors and mitigators showed that 2,204 (out of 9,266) doctors intend to leave medicine, and 2,914 (out of 9,266) intend to reduce their hours. This will clearly have significant implications on the future of the health care workforce and patient care.
While a concentrated effort is underway to stem and turn the tide on this projection, I’m interested in seeing how the doctors who leave their medical practice will go forward. How will they flourish? What will they do?
The skills doctors have gained from years of medical training and clinical practice are highly transferable to various professions. Think of all the experience you’ll have gained along the way in sciences, technology, management, and finance.
As well, you’ll likely have grown in your ability to:
- Display empathy
- Solve problems
- Cope with pressure
- Display integrity
- Work with a team
- Make decisions
All valuable soft skills to bring to your next career.
Before I share some tips for doctors who no longer want to practice medicine, I want to give you some job ideas that involve understanding and experience in medicine but don’t involve a conventional practice. This short list might give you some good ideas for your next step or at least help get your creative juices flowing!
Teaching can be an impactful outlet for doctors who want to leverage their medical expertise and inspire the next generation of care providers. Joining the faculty at a university, writing course curriculum, or developing CME programs could all be options for physicians in education.
Useful skills to have as a medical educator:
- You enjoy sharing your interest in a specialty or medical topic with other people
- You can communicate clearly and simply
- You like to develop a curriculum and/or share concepts and principles
Medical Communications and Writing
Expert health writers and editors are needed for textbook development, test prep materials, peer-review articles, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, and healthcare publications like magazines and websites. Medical writing can often be done remotely and on your own schedule, making it a good alternative for those looking for ultimate flexibility.
Useful skills to have for medical communications and writing:
- You have good spoken and written communication skills
- You’re able to adapt your writing style to different audiences
- You are comfortable with and competent at research
At the intersection of medicine and finance are some interesting roles for doctors who like numbers. Venture capital funds leverage physicians to advise on the viability of healthcare investments; healthcare non-profits use physicians for fundraising assistance, and biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device companies look for physician expertise as industry analysts.
Useful skills to have as a medical financial expert:
- You enjoy maths and numbers
- You can read and analyze spreadsheets and forecasts
- You enjoy research
Pivoting your career towards the law can be an interesting choice for doctors. A career in law can draw on the same high-level intellectual capabilities as medicine. Qualified doctors can have an edge when litigating cases involving pharmaceuticals and medical issues, especially complex medical malpractice cases.
Useful skills to have as a medical lawyer:
- You can absorb and analyze large amounts of information
- You can think critically
- You are a logical thinker
There are many online journalism opportunities in the press, radio, television, and online journalism for doctors who enjoy writing and speaking. Medical journalism can be divided into two sectors: medical journalism for the public in general and specialty medical publications. The second sector involves medical journalism for doctors and other professionals, which appears in peer-reviewed journals.
Useful skills to have as a medical journalist:
- You enjoy thoroughly researching a topic
- You can write well, editing and proofreading along the way
- You can easily follow a publication’s criteria
Medical Politics and Ethics
Suppose you are motivated to make a difference in patient care or improve healthcare workers’ working conditions. In that case, you may be interested in medical politics or ethics. With an interest in and knowledge of local or national issues, you could aid decision-making or improve representation in your specialty or region.
Useful skills to have as a medical politician and ethicist:
- You enjoy administration
- You are analytical with good written and spoken communication
- You can easily negotiate and make decisions
Medical researchers plan and conduct experiments and analyze results to increase scientific knowledge on medicine-related topics. You may also need to use this knowledge to develop new drugs or medical products.
Useful skills to have as a medical researcher:
- You are good at planning and organizing
- You work well with a team and are an excellent communicator
- You enjoy numerical and statistical analysis
Corporate medicine jobs include working for pharmaceutical or health insurance companies. You would trade your scrubs for suits but still leverage much of the medical expertise you gained throughout school and private practice.
Useful skills to have as a corporate pharmacist:
- You enjoy helping to develop policies and guidelines for patient care
- You are good at researching and product development
- You have strong communication skills
Healthcare consulting is needed at the hospital level for pharmaceutical companies, physician groups and labs, government agencies, medical device companies, and non-profits. As a healthcare consultant, you might advise on technology integration, mergers, and acquisitions, financial management, research and product development, or healthcare consumption.
Useful skills to have as a medical consultant:
- You are skilled at both listening and communicating
- You understand research and finance
- You have above-average writing skills
The need for adventure doctors continues to grow with the popularity of adventure tourism and extreme sports. A new subspecialty of medicine called “wilderness medicine” includes multiple disciplines such as emergency medicine, environmental medicine, travel medicine, and extreme sports medicine. At the heart of the practice of wilderness medicine is the ability to improvise in an austere environment with limited resources.
Useful skills to have as a medical adventurist:
- You love risk, the wilds, and adventures
- You work well under pressure
- You can make quick, critical decisions
5 Tips for Doctors Who No Longer Want to Practice Medicine
So, as you can see, while you may have decided to leave practicing medicine behind, several career opportunities can relieve you of the burnout and stress of being a doctor while still using everything you’ve learned and experienced in your career.
Here are five tips that may help create a path forward if you no longer want to practice medicine as you have been up until this point:
1. Understand yourself
I can imagine that getting to the point where you no longer want to practice medicine has not been an easy journey. Whether you’re struggling from burnout or don’t feel the benefits outweigh the disadvantages of continuing in your career, it will be helpful for you to take stock of things before moving on to a related or some other field of work.
Ask yourself some of the following questions to get the clarity you need:
- Am I experiencing depression, anxiety, burnout, or PTSD?
- Do I need to get some professional help?
- Do I need to take a complete break from work?
- What type of work interests me?
- Would I benefit from understanding myself better through a personality test?
- What are my short-term goals?
- What are my long-term goals?
- Do I know what I want?
2. Be realistic about your prospects
Entering an industry without knowing what you’re getting into can make your new career just as unsatisfying as your old one. From knowing what skills and experience are expected of you to understanding the ins and outs of the daily tasks, you should know exactly what it takes to succeed in your new field.
Knowing where the new career could take you in 20 years is essential so you don’t feel disillusioned and face another career change too soon.
Assess the long-term career path in this new field:
- Are there avenues for promotion?
- Will you have the opportunity to learn new skills?
- Alternately, do you want something that doesn’t have these things?
When considering a career change, evaluating your background is important because, while it’s true that many skills are transferable, overestimating your attractiveness to potential employers can frustrate you when attempting to land a position.
You may think that you can hit the ground running in your new career, but if you look at your skill set as if you were the hiring manager, would you hire yourself?
Take an objective look at your skills and experiences and write down why you wouldn’t qualify for a job. Then, develop strategies to overcome these challenges to help you become a more competitive candidate.
3. Research your next step(s)
When you’re researching a new or related career to the one you’re leaving, there are several things you’ll need to consider, including:
- Will there be a strong demand for this career in the future?
- What are the trends that could influence the demand in the future?
- Will there be enough local jobs, or will you need to relocate?
- What skills, education, languages, and experience are required?
- Will the job pay enough?
- Will you find satisfaction and fulfillment in this new field?
- Do you have what it takes to be successful in that field?
Some of the necessary research can be accomplished by talking with someone who is currently in the career you’re considering. Someone who is successful at it and enjoys it. More research can be done online, for example, looking to see what salary you can expect for a given career in a specific geographic region.
The factors determining your success in a chosen field are a combination of ones you can control and ones you can’t. You can control the education, training, and experience you get, the relationships you build and the people you know, and the passion you bring to your work.
What you don’t have total control over are the natural abilities and talents you are gifted with and the idea of serendipity, which combines luck and being in the right place at the right time.
4. Market your transferable skills
The most emphasized word on a job posting is “experience.” You’ll find the employer’s “wish list,” which lists all the qualities and qualifications they’d like in a candidate under “Requirements.”
Having direct experience isn’t necessarily the only means of gaining the skills needed to complete a job. Some industries require certifications, but for others, having transferable skills could be just as good.
Transferable skills are the ones you develop throughout your lifetime. They’re not job-specific abilities; they can be developed in one situation and transferred to another.
There are many ways of identifying your transferable skills:
- Job profile
Look for people within your network who are in careers you might be interested in and find out from them what skills they use in their job and if any other required or nice-to-haves could give you an edge.
Another approach is to start with your skills and see which jobs they might align with. An in-depth examination of your current job experience, duties, and the parts you play in your daily life can be a great tool in identifying the strengths, skills, and assets you could bring to a new career.
Sometimes recognizing your own skills and assets is hard. A self-assessment test or course will help you identify your interests, natural strengths, and weaknesses while gaining insight into your type of worker. It also can help you lay down the foundations for your new career.
5. Develop contacts
Networking is essential in developing contacts. It’s nothing more than getting to know people. Specifically getting to know people who will help advance your new career.
From 7 Ways to Build a Good Contact Network, here are their tips on networking your way to success:
- Meet the right people
- Eat, sleep, connect
- Make sure you are building a diverse network
- Prioritize key contacts
- Remember to stay in touch
- Small gestures are always good
While it’s sad that so many doctors no longer want to practice medicine, if you are one of them, I wish you all the best as you regroup and reassess how you want to move forward.
I’d love to hear about your journey and help you create a business or career that will empower you to take control of your life.
My website says, “Everything you have accomplished up until now is only a stepping stone to what comes next.” I believe that. I hope you do too.