Last Updated: 20 February 2020
By Japa Volchok, DO
Historically, there hasn’t been an interest for such variety of career options for physicians outside of traditional medicine until now.
Career Options for Physicians
Many physicians remember the days when they loved their job, when they could care for their patients and give each and every one the attention they needed. Along came the HMO. In came the expectations of fifteen-minute appointments. Produce. Produce. Produce.
Physicians started experiencing burnout. They began to feel like they didn’t have time to hear about their patients’ problems because they had more patients to see. They became short with their patients and the result was a decline in the quality of bedside manner, among other fallout.
Some physicians chose to quit steady clinical work and started looking for locum tenens gigs. Physicians began feeling like their patients were products and they were just line workers in a factory.
Today, physicians are still experiencing this frustration and bordering on burnout. The healthcare system creates an environment of stress for physicians with double-booked schedules, mountains of administrative tasks, and the grief they feel for the loss of their autonomy as a physician.
The decline is the relationships between doctors and patients saddens many physicians and may cause worse outcomes for patients as well. Clinicians are losing the soul-deep feeling of why they chose medicine in the first place and have begun to question if they’ve wasted their time – and a lot of money – to become the healthcare professional they are.
How Burnout Contributes to Re-Emerging Career Options for Physicians, PAs, and NPs
The AMA defines burnout as “a stress reaction marked by depersonalization, emotional exhaustion, a feeling of decreased personal achievement and a lack of empathy for patients.”
The statistics of physicians and burnout is astounding. Almost 80% of physicians in the United States either have gone through burnout or are currently experiencing it.
As physicians, PAs (physician assistants), and nurse practitioners, we are suffering from a deep-seated moral injury and we need a change of pace in order to heal.
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Regain Your Autonomy
Many physicians are leaving independent practice and going to hospital and health systems to work.
As this shift in their responsibility for patients’ care takes place, doctors realize that even though they don’t have the administrative responsibilities they had with owning a clinic, they bartered this for less control over the way things are done in the workplace. A hospital and health system also comes with a gift-wrapped on-call schedule.
Even doctors with their own clinics are feeling as though a great deal of their autonomy has been compromised. Prior authorizations and meeting quality metrics are not only time-consuming, but they can be counter to prudent clinical decision making.
Insurance processes stops the clinician’s decision from being the final say. Insurance companies are the middlemen who have inserted themselves in the medical care equation. They decide just how much they will pay and for how much the patient will be left responsible to pay.
Alternative Career Options for Physicians
Whether it’s a non-clinical transition you’re looking to make, you want a strict 9-to-5 with no on-call schedule, or you want a position that will give you the freedom to focus on your patients more than the administrative tasks, the first step is to get out there and find out what new career options are available to you.
To Teach or Be Taught?
The scope of what you can do with your future is wide open for you.
Would you like to learn a new area of medicine? Would you like to become a specialist? Do you want to learn or would you prefer to teach? You could write the curriculum for a specific focal point of medicine that has enchanted you for the entirety of your professional life.
You might choose to seek out areas of medicine such as wound care management or managing interpersonal violence. Hunt for a business who will give you the freedom and liberation you need as a physician.
Work for someone who can see your vision of what medicine is through their own eyes and show an appreciation for it, and you. Kiss the on-call life and the gratuitous heaps of administrative tasks goodbye.
Medical Malpractice Expert Witness
Absolutely no healthcare professional can say they welcome a medical malpractice lawsuit. It’s a physician’s worst nightmare. All this considered, becoming an expert witness can make you feel like you’ve signed up to work on the dark side of the moon and the sun will never shine on you.
It is a myth that medical experts only work for the prosecution. There are no limitations to how a medical expert can benefit the courts. As a medical expert, you could defend physicians and you can be a supporting witness for a patient who has been mistreated. It’s unfortunate, but it happens.
You will be standing on the side of justice no matter which side you are the expert witness for. If you are interested in courtroom trials and can handle being cross-examined, then becoming a medical expert witness may be right up your alley.
Physician Inventor and Medical Startup Entrepreneur
Did you start your path in medicine because you wanted to personally touch patients and make each one feel better? Or did you start because you wanted to make a massive impact on as many people as possible?
There are some clinicians who use their medical degrees to design devices and put med-tech innovation to work that have the potential to impact the healthcare industry and an astronomical number of patients.
Medical entrepreneurs can make a difference in the lives of chronically ill patients at a rate far higher than they may have had the possibility to as a clinical or hospital physician. A startup life sciences company could be a lucrative career path for you if you aren’t afraid of risk and get excited about nurturing something small and watching it grow.
Who better to design the programs, software, and devices to help patients than the very people who spend time with them at their bedside every day? A physician with a creative mind who is willing to take a risk and demonstrate constant perseverance has prime characteristics to be a leading innovator. Physicians have invented some of the top medical inventions, such as the stethoscope and balloon stent.
Make Way for a New Pathway
Instead of dwelling on the healthcare system by questioning yourself, use that frustration as empowerment. You have expertise in healthcare and you can gather up your skill set and the passion that you know still lives within you, and use it all to leverage a new career that will leave you feeling more fulfilled in your personal and your professional life.
No matter what your choice may be, if you are thinking about leaving traditional medicine, start doing your research and find your niche. You can love your job again and find time to be successful in medicine while still having a sense of self.
Business of Medicine (with CME!) and Where to Learn New Career Skills
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There are several new career options for physicians in today’s day and age. And while formal business strategy training is not a requirement, some can help you feel more confident in what you are doing.
Eligible for Category 1 CME: