A number of popular news outlets have reported that most doctors say they wish they could leave medicine. But few doctors actually end up leaving patient care. Despite the fact that I have written an instruction book for doctors who want to leave clinical medicine and I run nonclinicaldoctors.com, I still believe that the vast majority of physicians are happier and more productive in jobs that involve direct patient care, even if the thought of leaving clinical medicine seems appealing once in a while.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you consider whether you really should put some energy into finding a non-clinical job or whether you are more likely to find career satisfaction by remaining in patient care for the long-term.
1. What do you think when a young person mentions that she wants to become a doctor?
A. What a smart, ambitious kid! Good for her.
B. Poor kid doesn't know what she is in for.
2. If you were handed an offer to participate in committee meetings one day a week instead of seeing patients, with no overall change in your reimbursement, what would you do?
A. I would not want to sit through a committee meeting. I would keep my schedule as it is.
B. I would grab that opportunity. One day a week of working without demanding patients and medical malpractice risk sounds like a relief.
3. If you ran into a patient of yours on an airplane and he enthusiastically greeted you, how would you feel?
A. I would be happy to see that he is enjoying a vacation.
B. I would want to run away- my patients are a pain.
4. If you received a notice that one of your most common patient care encounters required a new change in documentation, how would you feel?
A. Slightly annoyed, but I would learn how to implement the new change as soon as I could.
B. Beaten down, insulted and disempowered. My work is tough enough without additional changes every time I turn around.
5. You have been taking care of a patient for 3 years and he is taking a turn for the worse, but his current condition requires a specialist in a different department. How do you feel?
A. I might call the specialist to touch base and I hope the patient and his family are at peace with the outcome.
B. Terrified. I review my charts to make sure there is nothing in his care that I can be blamed for.
6. You hear that one of your medical school classmates has retired after writing a best selling science fiction novel. How do you feel?
A. Happy for him.
B. Jealous. I'm not sure when my lucky break will finally come.
7. You find out that one of your former colleagues commuted suicide after a malpractice lawsuit. How do you feel?
A. Sad that he couldn't find the strength to pull through.
B. Angry at the world for putting him through that.
You see the trend here. If you answered mostly A, then clinical medicine is most likely right for you. But if you answered mostly B, now is the time to start exploring your options. Learn more about non-clinical opportunities here and explore nonclinicaldoctors.com to see how you can plan your transition to make your career more satisfying.