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8 Alternative Career Ideas for Burned-Out Physicians and Doctors

According to the Medical Economic Journal, published on Sept 21, 2021, four out of five physicians say they are burned out. The headline reads,

“Physician burnout….has reached a crisis point.”

That’s not surprising. And I’m not surprised that things still aren’t better in the second month of this new year.

Doctors are experiencing burnout, loss of autonomy, lack of job security, and extreme dissatisfaction with their careers like never before.

I know it doesn’t have to be that way.

Using the education and expertise you’ve gained over the years, I want to show you eight great alternative career ideas that could be right for you and let you build a professional life and practice medicine on your terms.

Help Change the Healthcare System

I know that our healthcare system needs to change. You know that, too. Here are two healthcare careers that focus on being part of that change:

1: Healthcare Consultant

In today’s workforce, healthcare consulting is part of a fast-growing niche in the workforce today. Because our largest demographic is the aging Baby Boomers and access to health insurance is exploding for all ages, work in this area will only continue to grow.

A healthcare consultant acts as an analyst. They learn about an organization’s healthcare-related operations so they can improve efficiencies. The two main improvements every organization is looking for are making more money and cutting costs.

Healthcare Consultant

You can do some types of consultancy with a business background, but, especially with patient care, experience in medicine is necessary.

Some of the critical skill set consultants and analysts need to have include:

  • The ability to think critically
  • The ability to analyze budget and revenue streams
  • Have active listening skills
  • Eloquent and practical communication skills
  • Exercise good judgment and decision-making skills.

A healthcare consultant can be hired directly by the healthcare company or as an ongoing consultant. This type of work is needed at the hospital and medical facilities level for physician groups and labs, government agencies, medical device companies, and the non-profit sector. Or an analyst might work for an outside consulting company that sends their employees to consult at various client organizations.

2: Occupational Physician

Occupational physicians are medical doctors who specialize in managing work-related conditions for healthcare workers. They help employees by advising them on how their health affects their productivity, and their work affects their health.

This job has two focuses. Occupational physicians deal directly with the wellbeing of an individual healthcare worker, and they develop policies and procedures to help keep workers safe and productive.

Occupational Physician

Some of the critical duties occupational physicians perform include:

  • Conducting medical screenings for new hires to make sure they are physically able to do the work required
  • Creating and administering worker’s health programs
  • Developing policies to reduce the spread of contagious diseases along with identifying safe levels of chemicals and hazardous substances
  • Working to maintain and increase productivity as well as social adjustment in the workplace
  • Helping healthcare workers deal with Worker’s Comp claims

Occupational physicians are recognized by the legal sector and understand what each worker’s job requires. They assess if a worker can be productive in their particular job. These doctors help sick or injured workers get better to return to work, and they help make sure workers stay healthy and safe.

Work With the Healthcare System

If you enjoy the research aspect of medical work, here are two different career opportunities to check out:

3: Physician Innovator

The experience a physician has developed throughout their work is an invaluable foundation for a career as a physician innovator. Their experiences help them understand the difference between technology capabilities (can it be done?) and unmet clinical needs (should we do it?)

The role of a physician innovator is to work towards developing solutions to the shortcomings of a medical system they face or have faced daily. Physician innovators are primarily involved in redesigning patient care delivery that improves outcomes while cutting costs.

Physician Inventor

The work of a physician innovator can include:

  • Understanding how today’s health care doesn’t meet the standard of patient need
  • Redesigning health care systems from the ground up
  • Building multi-disciplinary teams can allow work to be accomplished nontraditionally and sometimes even create new jobs.

It can also include:

  • Developing new medical devices
  • Developing innovative med-tech
  • Providing an understanding of how a new medical product can work in the field with both patients and doctors.

Combining creativity with intelligence and tenacity is a typical hallmark of most physicians, making them ideal prospects for this particular medical discipline.

4: Pharmaceutical Researcher

According to David Janero, the director of Northeastern’s pharmaceutical sciences graduate program, “…the first step [in becoming a pharmaceutical scientist] is having an innate interest in living systems, health and disease.”

The field of medical research can be an ideal career path if you don’t want to be a hospital-based physician anymore. Pharmaceutical researchers can work directly with pharmaceutical firms in hospital labs, research institutes, medical research facilities, or universities. This type of research often specializes in one aspect of a drug development process.

Pharmaceutical Researcher

Some of the roles of a pharmaceutical researcher can be:

  • Designing new drug therapies with synthetic or natural ingredients
  • Discovering new ways to use existing drugs in treating and managing different diseases
  • Studying how the body responds to current medications as a way of developing better and safer drugs
  • Testing drugs to make sure they pass safety and efficacy test
  • Helping improve the drug manufacturing process

Pharmaceutical research is a well-paying career path with a wide variety of applications and opportunities to contribute to healthcare.

Be a Medical Expert

Many new career opportunities are waiting for physicians and doctors that capitalize on all the expertise and experience they have accumulated throughout their careers. Check out these four suggestions:

5: Certified Physician Coach

With burnout levels at an all-time high among physicians and doctors, many are turning to physician coaching to learn new ways to lower stress and build a practice that includes self-care and achieving a more balanced life.

Physician coaching isn’t just limited to issues with burnout, though. They also provide support and training to physicians to improve clinical and practice management, leadership, and better interpersonal communication skills.

Certified Physican Coach

Former physicians are uniquely suited to this coaching as they have done that. Many coaching training programs are available to physicians and doctors to coach medical professionals and help them start their new careers.

Some of the topics that are addressed with a physician coach are:

  • Addressing burnout and how to manage a work-life balance.
  • Finacial management.
  • Business coaching, either in a private practice or another profession.
  • Life coaching.

6: Medical Teacher

Teaching can be a natural career change for physicians looking to leverage their expertise. Medical teachers train a variety of audiences, from veteran doctors to medical students, and even educate public members.

A physician with good communication skills and who enjoys working with people can find a fulfilling career teaching at every level of medical training. If research interests you, teaching at a university could be a good fit. Community colleges and vocational schools also look for physician teachers who aren’t interested in making research commitments.

Medical Teacher

Another offshoot of teaching is streamlining the current medical curriculum to update advances in medicine, technology, government policies, and cultural changes.

If you are interested in teaching outside of the educational system, there is a world of online instruction that can be profitable, which I’ll discuss more in the last section.

7: Medical Author

Physicians and doctors not only have the knowledge and experience it takes to write about the medical industry, but they also come with built-in credibility. This authority gives them a distinct advantage in the world of blogging, magazine article writing, and book publishing.

While well-known medical authors like Christiane NorthrupAndrew Weil, and Deepak Chopra are giants in the medical writing world, you don’t need to be famous to succeed in a writing career in medicine.

Medical Author

Expert medical writers and editors who can write clearly and concisely can find flexible and freelance writing jobs online:

  • Medical papers and journals
  • Peer-review articles
  • Healthcare magazines and websites
  • Textbook development
  • Medical journalism

As a professional medical writer, you can find work with various companies:

  • Medical devices
  • Pharmaceutical
  • Public health agencies
  • Healthcare publications

The term “medical writer” (also called “medical communicator”) is a specialized writer who can apply the principles of clinical research in developing clinical trial documents that describe research results, product use, and other medical information. This type of writing is primarily used in the pharmaceutical and medical device industry and is classified as either regulatory medical writing or educational, medical writing.

If the idea of becoming a medical author or writer appeals to you, there are unlimited opportunities available to you.

8: Build an online business

In 2022 the world of online opportunities has never been more incredible. Anyone with expertise, heart and a little business savvy can either add to their current business practice or develop a new business with the skills, expertise, and experience they already have.

Build an Online Business

The online world is all about building community. Here are just a few examples of how you can attract more visitors into your orbit:

  • Blogging
  • Podcasting
  • Growing a social media following on Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, and other platforms
  • Hosting workshops and webinars on Zoom
  • Starting a YouTube channel

Some of the best examples of physicians with an online presence include Kevin Pho, MD, founder of KevinMD.com, and Joseph Mercola of Mercola.com. But again, you don’t need to be as famous as they are to make a good living by building an online business.

More and more professionals in varying fields are parlaying their writing and speaking skills in ways that attract the public to their message. These “celebrity” doctors don’t just stay in one lane. They grow their social media following (and their bottom line) by getting their message out through multiple types of online activity.

Building a New Career

Like many of you, just a decade ago, I was an accomplished physician but knew that I had more to offer. I started off feeling scared and ignorant, but eventually, I realized that I already had the expertise and experience I needed. I just hadn’t developed the business skills that I needed to gain that expertise and experience.

Now I’m on the other side of a journey that took me from a path leading me to physician burnout and set me on the road to a better, healthier, less stressed, and more financially profitable health care professional.

Building a New Career

As part of that journey, I realized that while I was a physician, I was also an entrepreneur. I didn’t know it yet. I didn’t see that my career was my business, and it was up to me to work it, change it, do whatever I needed to do to thrive.

So I changed and grew, and part of that change was developing an online business as I described above. If you’re interested in learning more about how to think like an entrepreneur and succeed in the business of medicine, I would love to show you how I work exclusively with other physicians and doctors at EntreMD Business School.

My passion is to help change how we as physicians and doctors view our careers so we can all practice medicine on our terms. Whether we discuss your goals over the phone or see you attending the EntreMD business school, I hope to see more of you and can’t wait to see how your career grows. And if you’re interested in having a one-on-one call with me, please feel free to reach out on my contact page. I’d love to hear from you. As always, if you’re interested in learning more, tune in to my weekly EntreMD podcast.