Second Chance at Medicine: Career Changes for Physicians

Guest Post by Farlyn Lucas

Photo by Online Marketing on Unsplash

By the time the ink is dry on a physician’s license, they’ve spent hundreds of hours in residency, thousands of hours studying, and many thousands of dollars on classes and training. After all that, one would think that Dr. So-and-So would be just where they wanted to be. And many are.

But just like any other person, doctors are allowed to change their mind. Some make it through med school before they realize they need to take a different direction. Others are in an established practice before it really sets in. Yet others continue to take on more responsibility until their health or personal lives suffer.

The good thing about change in the medical field is that there is always a need for qualified professionals. The U.S. alone employs approximately 760,000 physicians and surgeons and the numbers continue to rise. The ability to change specialties or even careers is more do-able now than it’s ever been.

 Why a Physician Might Need Change

There are numerous reasons why a physician might want to move out of their area of specialty or even change careers all together. For some it’s a personal or life change that needs to happen. Family is an important factor when you consider the needs of your loved ones vs. the long and unpredictable hours many doctors keep. Location is another reason. You don’t always get the opportunity to practice medicine where you hoped to.

Sometimes it’s just the wrong career or area of interest right from the start. Many say that they thought it would get easier, or once they hit a certain point in their career it would get better. Others say they didn’t want to disappoint family by changing their educational and career goals. Often those trying to make this tough decision are faced with guilt over the time, money, and sacrifices of friends and family to get them where they are.

Other reasons for change are:

  • Advancements in technology
  • Burnout
  • Desire for better hours
  • Management issues
  • Salary
  • Toxic work environment
  • Work politics and how group decisions are made

 Identifying the Need for Change

It’s not always obvious to someone when the need for career modification is upon them. Some just trudge through each day with a feeling of discontentment weighing them down. They’re unable to look beyond the immediate needs to see what the next 10, 20, even 30 years might be like if they stay where they are.

Others are chomping at the bit to make a change. They know they can’t continue the current path without major setbacks. Issues with anxiety, depression, insomnia, weight gain, and stress can be major problems when you’re not happy with the job you go to day after day. Key identifiers that it might be time to reconsider your career goals are:

  • Increasing difficulty getting out of bed
  • Anxiety at the thought of going to work or performing duties
  • General discontentment with work environment
  • Feelings of regret for choosing this path
  • Experiencing more bad days that good
  • Questioning why you do what you do

Options for Change

While some simply need a change of scenery, others may want to make a major change. It’s not uncommon for a seasoned physician to decide they want a complete make-over such as going from OB/GYN to pediatrician or family medicine to pathology.

It won’t be easy, but it is possible. There will likely be more time and education required. If you want to continue with clinical practice, there are a number of options such as:

If you’d rather switch to something non-clinical there are still a lot of options available. There’s currently a great need for online physicians as well as remote options such as medical writer/editor and medical curriculum writers.

Other areas to consider are insurance medicine, medical financial advisor, expert witness/medical malpractice expert, medical start-up entrepreneur, physician inventor, and forensic medical examiner.

How to Get There

It’s not the easiest road to follow, but in order to get there, here are a few questions you should ask yourself.

  • Why do I want to change jobs?
  • What issues do I have with my current job?
  • What are my professional goals?
  • What do I really want?
  • What are my options?
  • What don’t I know?
  • What educational upgrades do I need to make?

Once you have answered these questions, set your goals and begin by taking small but actionable steps. Congratulations, you’ve already begun your journey.