Question: I work with a doctor who seems so unhappy. It is awkward for me to bring it up, but I think he would be better off doing something else.
Answer: Medical professionals in every area of medicine- nurses, pharmaceutical representatives, therapists, hospital administrators, and doctors- often write to me, "I know a doctor who really could use some information about alternative physician jobs." The doctor may be a colleague, student, friend, spouse or even one of your supervising doctors. You may be hesitant to broach this precarious subject. You might be worried that if you bring up the idea of non-clinical physician opportunities, you could unwittingly add to the physician's unhappiness by inadvertently sending the message, "you aren't a good doctor, you should find something else to do."
Your colleague or friend is fortunate to have you as a sympathetic ally. If the physician has expressed dissatisfaction, it would help to reassure the doctor that he or she is doing a good job taking care of patients, but might enjoy learning about the wider array of professional opportunities available to physicians.
A gentle nudge affirming that the doctor has viable options will almost certainly be well received when paired with reassurance of professional competence. It also helps for you to approach your friend with the concept that a physician career is a continuum, and that some doctors do not continue to practice patient care for their whole careers. Find out more about the physician career continuumhere.
If, on the other hand, you are actually concerned about the doctor's ability to do a good job as a physician, then you have a responsibly to direct your friend towards remedial training to improve clinical performance. If this suggestion is combined with assurance that there is reliable information about respected and well paying non-clinical physician jobs, the doctor will be well equipped to evaluate which direction to pursue to make the changes necessary- whether remedial training or non-clinical work.
If you have noticed a doctor's shortcomings, there is a chance that others have noticed as well- or will notice in the near future. You will be doing a great service if you help direct the doctor to a path to become either a better clinical physician, or a physician who can work to attain professional satisfaction in the non-clinical arena.
There are a number of resources you can discuss with your colleague, including nonclinicaldoctors.com and Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine.