Over the past 2 years there have been an increasing number of articles citing the increasing number of physicians leaving clinical practice.
While you may think that this is a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the change began in the years prior. The pandemic simply accelerated the exodus.
The majority of physicians have at least entertained the thought about leaving practice. But, then the onslaught of questions begins when faced with the reality of what you could possibly do (and be qualified for) if you were to seriously pursue a nonclinical career.
If you are a physician considering a departure from clinical practice, here are 7 important questions to ask yourself before making the leap.
1. What is your honest assessment of your current career?
It's important to take a look at the bigger picture before making a decision to leave your career. Start with identifying what's currently working well. These things are usually drowned out by the louder noise of what's not working well. Both are equally important to inform your decision-making. Don't forget to ask yourself what may be missing from your career as well. Maybe it's important that you work for an organization where breaks are built into the schedule or there are opportunities to be involved in advocacy or community engagement initiatives. Create 3 columns on a page and write down your answers to each of these questions. That will give you a good overview of how well your current career is working for you.
2. Why do you want to leave your current position?
This question comes up in job interviews and it's helpful to have genuinely thoughts about this beforehand. You want to have a compelling reason for making a change. This will help keep you motivated when you come up against obstacles on your career transition journey. Know your reasons for wanting to leave (top 3). Like your reasons for wanting to leave. Being crystal clear about this will help you come across more confidently when you're talking about your decision to leave with your loved ones, colleagues and future employers. Write down or print out your compelling reason and keep it visible as a reminder while you're taking action to explore new opportunities.
3. What career is a good fit with your core values?
Sometimes physicians will focus on a nonclinical career that they saw someone else make successfully, without fully vetting the field at a high and granular level. You want to find a position in an industry that supports what matters to you and doesn't run counter to your core beliefs and values. As a pediatrician, I would never consider working for an organization that disempowers women and children. Think about the values that you uphold and look at potential job opportunities through that lens. Prioritize conversations with physicians who are in roles and organizations that you are interested in to learn what the day to day work is like. It can help you to better determine whether pursuing positions in that field may or may not be a good fit.
4. What are the most common barriers to getting your foot in the door of your desired nonclinical career?
It's typically more common to see the stories of success for physician career transitions, but the challenges present leading up to that leap may remain untold. Expect obstacles to entry and don't be afraid to fail along the way. Identify your own perceived barriers and make a list. Examples may be feeling like you're not qualified for the positions you're interested in or not understanding all of the requirements needed to be competitive outside of the clinical world. Then talk to physicians who have successfully made the leap and ask them to share what barriers they encountered and how they overcame them.
5. Beyond your career, what's most important to you in your life?
Take into account what you need for your overall life, not just in your career. Work-life balance is a myth. You are living your life when you are working; you can't separate these out. Do you need a certain salary requirement to cover your living expenses, without having to significantly change your current lifestyle? If yes, know your number as you will want to focus on positions where the minimum starting salary meets or exceeds this number. Do you want more flexibility in your schedule so that you can pick up your child from school? Look for positions where you can work remotely or work flexible hours around your child's school schedule. Set an intention to create a work opportunity that supports the things that are most important to you.
6. How willing are you to tolerate uncomfortable emotions?
Transitions mean change and challenges are typically an associated by-product. Along the way to your nonclinical position, you will encounter situations that are unfamiliar, pushing you gently (and sometimes not so gently) out of your comfort zone. You will become a learner again. Learning a new culture, new systems and applying your medical knowledge, experience and skills in a new way. This drops you into that uncomfortable space where you become acutely aware of how much you don't know (think back to first day of intern year). A key strategy to successfully making the transition to a nonclinical career and thriving in your new role, is mastering your mindset. You will need to manage your thoughts (the ones that fuel self-doubt, confusion and indecision) so as not to sabotage your success. Ask yourself on a scale of 1-10, where 10 is 100% willing, how willing are you to tolerate the uncomfortable emotions that will surface along the way to your desired career? If you're at a 7 or less, seek out a career coach, mentor or trusted advisor to help you with the skills needed to increase your rating to an 8 or higher.
7. What planning and preparation do you need to do before making the transition?
The most successful transitions (and outcomes post-transition) result from planning and preparation. Start with identifying your timeline. When you do you want to leave your current position? When do you want to start your new position? You may decide to build in some downtime in between jobs. How much notice do you need to give your current employer/practice partners? What is the expected time to start your new position once accepting the offer? Sit down and brainstorm a list of questions that need to be answered and tasks that need to be completed. Once you have your list, you can develop your personalized strategic action plan to get you to your goal.
Answering the above questions can prove helpful in your decision-making process and serve to strengthen your commitment to move forward in your search for a nonclinical career.
Which question do you find most helpful? Let me know in the comments below or feel free to send me a personal note at Michelle@DrMichelleBailey.com.
The Physician Career Path Reimagined
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