Physicians need to complete at least one year of training in a certified residency program and must pass all three parts of the USMLE to become qualified to apply for a medical license. Residency entails a 3-7 year minimum commitment of training to attain clinical skills and board eligibility. Residency is highly sought after, and there are hundreds of candidates who do not match each year.
I want to drop out
But what if, after finishing medical school, matching, and starting your training, you decide that you hate residency and want to leave before finishing? What if you decide that you want to pursue another avenue? You will most likely receive a number of different messages from various people.
I have received this question over a hundred times, and I have heard over one hundred different stories of why residents want to drop out, including:
The answer of whether or not you should leave residency depends on how you visualize your future.
You can decide by asking yourself the following questions.
If you answered yes to any of the above questions, then you need to stay in your residency to become qualified.
Your discouragement is understandable, but dropping out will not help you get where you want to go.
If you answered no to all of the above questions, then move on to the following questions.
If you answered yes to either of those questions, then you need to develop good relationships with your program directors and transfer into a different residency.
You deserve to practice the specialty you want to- and even if you waste a few years of training to get the specialty you want- you will find the extra training well worth it.
If you answered no to all of the questions so far, then move on to the next question.
I am sure you don't want to hear this, but, completing your residency actually puts you on par with non-physicians who are qualified in their own areas.
If you have still answered no to every question so far, then move on to the next question.
If you answered yes, then leaving residency is probably in your best interest. Residency, board eligibility and board certification will not help you attain these types of positions any more than just having a graduate degree. In fact, this is the only instance in which you will waste time professionally by remaining in your residency. But, be aware that your medical school and your residency will not be helpful in getting you the job you are looking for, and that you will have to start at the bottom and work your way up.
For more information on how to find a non-clinical job, see Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine. Find out more about your specific career options without residency here.
You can also see a resource dedicated to quitting residency here.