How doctors can look for the right non-clinical medical job

How many physicians do you know who have chosen to leave their clinical practice?

There’s no doubt that physicians are getting burned out. Many are tired of fighting insurance companies and even more physicians are getting discouraged about reductions in reimbursement. This has caused some physicians to drop Medicare and Medicaid. Others have switched to cash-only or concierge/boutique practice models. Then you have your group of physicians who have simply decided to leave clinical medicine to pursue career options in the world of non-clinical medicine.

The vast majority of physicians are actually not aware of non-clinical career options beyond common examples such as working for a pharmaceutical company, being a consultant for a major consulting firm, or reviewing medical charts. Some physicians think about “administrative medicine,” and they don’t envision themselves being happy spending 100% of their time with administrative paperwork. For most physicians, the administrative component is the worst part of being a physician.

The reality is that there are a host of non-clinical opportunities for physicians who have a variety of interests beyond clinical medicine. The problem is that we don’t learn about these opportunities during medical school. We don’t go through non-clinical rotations during our clinical clerkships. Medical students and residents don’t get paired with non-clinical mentors who can teach us about career options on the “business” side of health care. They don’t learn about jobs in medical writing, market research, health informatics, or venture capital. They also don’t learn how to enter the pharmaceutical or biotechnology industry.

When they start to look at various job posts, they see terms like “2 years of industry experience required.” How can they break in if they lack formal industry experience? Where do they get started? Do they need additional training and education? Many physicians seem to have a common misconception that a formal degree in business is required if they wish to be successful in the non-clinical world. Some choose to pursue an executive MBA with hopes that they may venture off into the non-clinical sector someday.

As physicians get burned out they are looking for alternatives. Physicians are hearing a lot of discussion around health care reform, but little discussion about tort reform. As a result, many are feeling discouraged because their voices are not being heard by politicians and decision makers. In the setting of major health care reform, many physicians are anticipating that their workload will increase and their reimbursement will decrease.

Should these physicians leave clinical medicine and pursue non-clinical career options? Who will end up providing medical care if physicians leave their clinical practice and choose to work for some type of health care company?

Joseph Kim is a physician-executive who blogs at Non-Clinical Medical Jobs, Careers, and Opportunities.

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  • Dr. Mary Johnson

    I think this is the saddest post I’ve read in a long time – mostly because (lately) leaving medicine altogether is a thought that often crosses my mind. Our voices are not being heard and our stories-of-woe are not being told. Doctors are left to bang their heads against a wall of disinterest and entitlement.

    WHY subject yourself to this garbage?


    And even now, with Congress fighting over two healthcare bills (that will give birth to far more problems than they solve) NOBODY-but-NOBODY cares about that.

  • Enough is enough

    In the next year I will be leaving clinical practice due to burnout, but health care reform has nothing to do with it: I’m a veterinarian. I’m tired of unreasonable clients, declining actual income, chasing bad debt, poor benefits (I’m the practice owner), long hours and a brutal on-call schedule. Sound familiar?

    It’s true it was not easy to find mentors. I have been very fortunate, but met one of my most helpful mentors socially, purely by chance (she’s been in the industry I hope to enter for more than 20 years and travelled a path similar to mine).

    Not everyone capable of making a positive contribution to health care must work in clinical practice. If a physician (or veterinarian) is considering a change for the right reasons, I think that’s a reasonable option. As for who will provide care to my patients – someone will, probably from a large, regional practice with multiple doctors. It will take longer to schedule an appointment be more expensive. Care will be less personal. That’s the trend in many businesses, not just veterinary and human medicine.

  • Hospitalist

    Anyone else find it a little funny that this post about leaving clinical medicine is in between two other posts detailing horrible experiences in the doctor’s office. And then those posts are followed by comments of others sharing their similar tales of woe.

    My biggest source of frustration comes from the negative sentiments we receive as physicians. I’m sorry I make more money than most people. But I work hard and I do the best I can. And most of the physicians I know are good, caring people who don’t want to fail their patients. But, apparently having dull grey walls makes you a bad person and a failure as a physician. I’m sorry that we can never meet anyone’s expectations. I’m sick of saying I’m sorry for everything. But I am sorry I went into medicine.

    Studies have actually found that having TVs in the ER contributed most to improved patient satisfaction. Our hospital spent A LOT of money on flat screen TVs for every room. A TV in every room does not equal good medical care. Just sad.

  • gerridoc

    Six months ago, I left clinical medicine after 26 years in practice. I am a much happier person, and I don’t miss taking care of patients. Yes, it is difficult to find a non-clinical job, but I am very thankful that I was able to find one that I truly enjoy. My advice: Keep looking!

  • Enough is enough


    I think I’m going to be a much happier person, too. Good for you.

  • Joseph Kim, MD, MPH

    The sad reality is that so many unhappy physicians feel “trapped” because they can’t imaging rebuilding a career outside of clinical medicine. Burdened with school loans and financial obligations, many physicians continue to practice medicine even though they would prefer to do something else. To add on top of that, I doubt that these major healthcare reform changes will boost primary care physician career satisfaction in the United States.

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