If the thought of leaving medicine has crossed your mind more than once, you're not alone. A recent University of Minnesota study found that physicians are leaving the field at a rate four times higher than before the pandemic.
But, what if the grass isn't greener on the other side? Or maybe worse, you can't even get to the other side.
When considering a departure from clinical practice, your mind may be flooded with what seems like an unending list of questions that feel overwhelming. Many of the questions will be unproductive and only serve to raise your level of fear and anxiety.
And when you're feeling fearful and anxious, you're unlikely to take any meaningful action that will help you determine if a career change is right for you.
Instead of staying stuck in this cycle, here are 5 questions that will help you to decide if you're ready to take the leap.
1. What is it costing you to stay in your current position?
Consider the total costs of being in a clinical position vs a non-clinical position. Most people only look at salary, but ask yourself what it’s costing you to stay in a position that doesn’t work for you. If nothing were to change, what is the impact that your current position is having on the things that matter most to you - your health, your relationships, your happiness. Weigh that against the value you place on the space and balance that a nonclinical career may afford.
2. What approach am I taking to make this decision?
Changing careers after the investment of time, money and energy is a big decision and not one to be taken lightly. It's important that you are clear on the reasons you want to make the decision to leave clinical practice AND why you would want to pursue a nonclinical career. Don’t make a decision from a place of confusion or desperation. You want to make your decision from an empowering place with clarity and intention.
3. What options haven't I considered?
When we feel like our back is up against a wall and something needs to change now, it's tempting to look at your options as all or none - stay where I am now or quit and find a nonclinical position. But life is not always black and white and there are many possibilities in between. Be willing and open to explore all of your options. In the land where anything is possible, dream big and don’t censor yourself. Consider whether staying in clinical practice is a viable option, but in a different position that better fits the lifestyle you desire. Taking a bridge position that allows you to have some space to take care of yourself is a smart strategy so that you can find a career you love for the long-term. Sit down and brainstorm ideas and enlist the help of a trusted friend, advisor or coach to help you think outside of the box.
4. If you could do anything you wanted to do, what would it be?
As a pediatrician, I often asked kids what they wanted to do when they grow up. This is different than the question I was asked when I was younger which is who I wanted to be. We often equate what we do with who we are, but they are not one and the same. If you decide to leave clinical practice, you may find that it's hard to envision yourself doing anything else because being a doctor who sees patients has become a part of your identity. Over time, you may have lost touch with who you are today and what you want at this time in your life. Spend some time getting clear on what you really want. Give yourself time and permission to figure it out. If you’re not sure what you want, start with what you don’t want (we’re usually clearer on that) and work backwards.
5. Who can I reach out to for help to better inform my decision?
Over the years you've invested to earn your medical degree and beyond you have likely created numerous connections. Conduct some informational interviews to learn more about nonclinical careers that interest you. Look at connections you may have on LinkedIn and send them a message to ask for 15-20 min of their time to learn more about their position. Send invitations to make meaningful connections with new individuals to build and grow your network. Approximately 85% of jobs are filled by word of mouth. This is the power of networking. Ask questions, seek advice and tell people what it is you really want to do. Most physicians who have made the transition are happy to share their journey - the good, the bad and the ugly - which can ultimately inform your own decision-making.
So, now you have some high-quality questions that will better serve you as you consider if you're ready for a career transition at this time. And, I want to remind you that a better career experience is possible for you. You can find work that is fulfilling and allows for a better sense of balance across all areas of your life.
Lean in and be honest with yourself. And if you would like some help with your decision-making process, I invite you to reach out to connect with me. I'd be happy to share my own story that led to my successful transition and support you in gaining the clarity you need to make an empowered and informed decision.
Click here to send me a private message letting me know you want to talk and I'll share the link to my online calendar so we can find a convenient time to connect.
Life Beyond Clinical Practice with Dr. Michelle Bailey
Hi, I'm Dr. Michelle Bailey.
I help physicians who are unhappy or unsatisfied with their current career find a nonclinical career that they love.
Retiring early from clinical practice after almost 20 years as a board-certified pediatrician I successfully made the leap and transitioned to a nonclinical career.
I'm thriving in my new career and am on a mission to help other physicians do the same with the support, guidance, and community that I wish I had when I was struggling with this decision.
You're invited to connect with me in my private Facebook community for physicians to learn about all things related to your nonclinical career transition. Join here.
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