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.
Ask yourself the following questions.
Your discouragement is understandable, but dropping out will not help you get where you want to go.
- If bullying, intimidation or harassment are driving you out of your program, seek the assistance of a mentor (preferably a senior faculty in your specialty) who can advocate for you. There is a strong chance that the person or people who are behaving unprofessionally with you are also behaving unprofessionally with others, and your complaint is likely to be one of several complaints.
If you answered no to all of the above questions, then move on to the following questions.
- Do you want to see yourself practicing medicine the same way attendings in another specialty practice medicine?
- Have you discovered that another specialty that you were not previously exposed to is appealing now that you have had some exposure?
If you answered yes to that question, 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.
- Would you like to be a leader in the health care field?
- Do you want to work in a non-clinical job in medicine?
I am sure you don't want to hear this, but, completing your residency actually puts you on par with non-MDs who are qualified in their own areas.
- Would you prefer to work as a businessperson, a lawyer, an investor, a journalist, a professional consultant, an entrepreneur or in any other field with little to no emphasis on medicine?
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.