"I can do anything"
I have received this question hundreds of times from doctors in the US and abroad:
"I am a doctor looking for a career switch. I can provide medical advice for any company. I can speak, write, share my opinions, and consult. I can do just about anything you need. Can you recommend something for me? I need to continue to make at least my current income."
Ironically, expressing too much flexibility in your job search can backfire.
There are many different types of projects that physicians can pursue for additional income while maintaining patient care responsibilities. Some doctors take on these types of projects to augment their earnings, and some seek them to gain experience and exposure to other aspects of medicine. Side work can be a good way to gain experience that will eventually help you position yourself for a full time non clinical job. A number of these options can also provide a salary to replace full time clinical practice.
How to Get a Non-Clinical Job in Healthcare
I hear from so many doctors who tell me that they are trying to leave clinical medicine and can't seem to get a job outside of direct patient care. Sometimes, a physician looking to make a transition outside of patient care needs to acquire just a few additional qualifications to become a strong candidate for the job. It's important to make yourself the best candidate you can be for the non-clinical positions that you want to apply for, and you can do that by devoting a reasonable amount of time and attention to the process.
Below are a few examples of common non-clinical careers for doctors and what you need to do to get there.
If you want to work as a lead researcher in a pharmaceutical company, you need to gain demonstrable research experience. If you have not already built experience during your medical school and residency, you can enter into the area of research later in your career. And some physicians work in the research field without doing a residency—usually starting at an entry level and gradually taking on more and more responsibility and leadership.
You can acquire experience by starting in an entry level position:
If you want to work in the business side of medicine, either on the payer side or on the administrative side, you can start by joining a hospital committee or by taking your specialty organization courses on medical reimbursement. Some doctors choose to take the MBA route. All of these strategies can work.
The key is to learn the language and processes that drive healthcare administration and business and to practice working with others to achieve demonstrable outcomes. Learn how you can better understand the business and/or regulatory side of medicine here.
If your objective is to become a leader, you need to start by proving that you can lead. Surprisingly, this doesn't mean that you should demonstrate that you know how to intimidate people or boss them around. You need to start by making things work within your professional environment—and that means making agreements happen and making things run smoothly. When others can vouch for your leadership capabilities by saying that you are the person to turn to in times of need, you can confidently say that you have what it takes to be a leader.
In order to be paid to write, you have to prove that you can write well. This is a tough area to break into, but you can begin by working on a team to write an academic paper for a peer reviewed journal or by submitting an article to an online blog. You cannot expect to be paid to write until you have demonstrated that your writing is good enough for a company to pay you to write for them. Health and medical writing can be a lucrative field if you make your work valuable from a business perspective.
You can get started by submitting an article to nonclinicaldoctors.com to see how an audience responds to your writing and also to use the article as a writing sample if you apply for a writing job.
The world of pre-authorization and utilization review is becoming more regulated. Clinical practice or previous work on specialty guidelines is often an unofficial prerequisite for this type of work. A medical license or board certification is typically a requirement for medical review work.
Consider serving on your hospital utilization committee or participating in your specialty guideline group if you are considering applying for a position in utilization review. See a list of chart review companies here.
Applying for a non-clinical job should not be stressful. Be prepared to devote some time and energy to learning about non-clinical jobs before you apply. A knowledgeable applicant is the strongest applicant.
Once you know the qualifications a doctor needs to get a non-clinical job, be honest with yourself as you ask yourself whether you are a strong candidate?
There are several ways to figure out if you are a strong candidate:
Making yourself a strong candidate
To build your qualifications for the non-clinical job you want, you need to be purposeful in your approach. You need to establish skills or qualifications if you don't have them already.
The biggest mistake doctors make when applying for non-clinical jobs is saying, "I can do any job." Find out how to avoid mistakes when looking for a non-clinical job.
Doctors who want to transition into non-clinical jobs often don't know where to begin. There are many physicians and health care professionals who want to find non-clinical jobs- for a variety of reasons. The following steps can make that transition happen smoothly.
4. Strategize to determine the right approaches you need to take for the jobs that fit your goals. Become an expert at understanding the ins and outs of your future career. Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine provides you with thorough insight into non-clinical job opportunities and shows you in detail how to get the job. I did all the research for you, so you don't have to. If your only complaint is that I have provided too much detail then I have done my job- because I want to provide you with as much guidance as you could ever need!
5. Taking Initiative
As you map out your next steps, there are three methods that you can use to approach your career transition:
6. Accept a good job and continue to prove to yourself and to others that you are an asset. Doctors can succeed in a variety of non-clinical fields. When doctors thrive on the non-clinical world, there are many winners, including the health care delivery system as a whole.
If you decide at any time throughout this process that you want to stay in clinical medicine, but you think you need to make some changes to your current work environment, don't delay improving your situation. Your patients will be better served if you are in a situation that is fair and productive. Every physician can and should achieve career satisfaction.
If you are a physician looking for a teaching position, there are several options open to you, including college, graduate school and a professional school teaching positions. Teaching jobs in elementary through high school usually require an education degree and a teaching license, which takes several years of additional schooling, even if you already have an MD or a DO.
Teaching is a joy for some and a drag for others. It is often a suitable fit for doctors who are good at interacting with students and peers. But teaching is not usually the right choice for doctors who want to escape from patient care, and students deserve to be taught by professors who enjoy teaching. It takes time and energy to find a teaching position, and doctors who are not genuinely interested in teaching may find the time involved in searching for a teaching job discouraging. If you consider teaching a desirable option, there are some useful tips to consider first.
When I hear from doctors who are looking for good non-clinical jobs, physicians often include a list of positive attributes such as 'I work well with others,' 'I am eager to learn,' or 'I have a strong interest in starting my own business.'
While these attributes are valuable in achieving success, they often don't help in gaining credibility in the transition to the non-clinical workforce, or in negotiating a competitive salary.
Your most valuable tool for finding a non-clinical job is expertise in regulations and policies.
Expertise is one of the most valuable tools that health care professionals possess. Doctors already have expertise in medical care. However, the current medical atmosphere has led to an overwhelming growth of policies in areas of coding, billing, licensing, accreditation, practice parameters, best models of health care, patient privacy, cost containment, documentation and electronic medical records- to name just a few of the complex regulatory matters that affect every aspect of health care.
Whether you aspire to work in an executive or administrative role or to start your own business, a mastery of these hard to grasp regulatory issues will serve you well and can potentially make you irreplaceable. When you customize your own areas of non-clinical healthcare policy expertise, you will reap the benefits of your invested time and energy.