In the changing healthcare climate, non-clinical work may be a better fit for some doctors. But it is important to examine the characteristics of non-clinical jobs before assuming that they may offer what you are looking for.
I hear from doctors from all over the country every day.
The physicians who reach out to me are feeling beaten down and having trouble keeping their heads above water. Many doctors tell me that clinical work used to be rewarding, but that high quality patient care is becoming incompatible with the increasing financial and regulatory requirements demanded by employers and payers. Most established physicians don't want to settle for lower quality patient care, and faced with a difficult dilemma, thousands of physicians think about changing direction.
Young physicians who are still in the midst of residency training often have a gut feeling that a career centered on direct patient care is not the right fit. And medical students frequently contact me- already considering applying for non-clinical jobs straight out of medical school, instead of applying for residency.
But is the grass really greener in non-clinical medicine? It all depends on what you want to get out of your work.
*Are you looking to escape from excessively documenting every detail of your patient care by transitioning into the non-clinical world? You can finally achieve that with some non-traditional medical jobs in areas such as medical writing and chart review, but you can drown in a different type of documentation.
In fact, many non-clinical positions essentially entail a whole day of documentation or reviewing another health care provider's documentation. Of course, if you work in a non-clinical role, the documentation portion of the job is work that you will be paid for, in contrast to clinician medicine, which requires documentation as a prerequisite to reimbursement for patient care.
Medical malpractice angst
*Are you tired of medical malpractice anxiety? Most of the time, you will not be held directly responsible for patient outcomes in the non-clinical world. And this is one of the most appealing factors that draws doctors to non-traditional jobs.
Ironically, even physicians who work in areas such as utilization review or as expert witnesses face far less scrutiny and liability than practicing physicians, as unfair as that may seem.
Connecting with patients
*Will you miss taking care of people? Some doctors are really good with patients but not so great with colleagues and meetings- the balance will change dramatically in the non-clinical arena, where you will interact almost exclusively with peers and professional colleagues, not with sick people.
*Do you value job security and stability? Clinical medicine is admittedly becoming less secure than in the past. While some non-clinical positions offer more job stability than others, overall, non-clinical jobs are less secure than clinical jobs. And, even if you have a leadership position, may have to deal with sudden company downsizing. If you are assigned to lead a project on a medical product that becomes obsolete, outdated, or is shown to be less valuable than competitor products, you could find that keeping your non-clinical position is dependent on factors that you have absolutely no control over.
When you move into the non-clinical aspects of medicine, you could be put in charge of reducing cost, trying to get a new device approved, or running a non-profit. If you believe in the integrity of your cost containment strategies, the safety and efficacy of the device, or the value of the non-profit, you may feel even more pride and satisfaction in your work than you did in patient care. But if you find yourself forced to communicate in ways that you do not believe in, you could end up craving the integrity of patient care.
*Money is a vital component of any job. A number of non-clinical options offer stellar compensation if you can demonstrate your value. On the other hand, some non-clinical jobs offer salaries equal to or even lower than your job as a practicing physician. See Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine for more information about salaries of non-clinical jobs.
All jobs have the potential to be highly volatile. Clinical medicine, however, requires a particularly cool head and an ability to calm others down amid the fear of a bad diagnosis and the stress of unpredictability. On the average, day-to-day work in the non-clinical arena is more predictable and less frequently fraught with emotionally unstable interactions.
One of the biggest complaints that doctors express is the growing sense that someone is 'looking over your shoulder' and second guessing everything you do. Industry is inherently designed to be much less autonomous than medicine. This is an important consideration to keep in mind if you want to transition out of patient care. The frustration of what you consider to be excessive and superfluous oversight may follow you in the non-clinical arena as well.
Find out more about the reality of non-clinical jobs for doctors and learn how to make yourself a strong candidate for the job that is most suitable for you by exploring nonclinicaldoctors.com or Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine.