You have had a long, fulfilling career. Or maybe you’re in the middle of practice, realizing you’re burned out and tired, and wanting to do something else. Maybe the practice you joined no longer fuels you, or you realize you’re working too hard. It could even be a family or health issue that forces you to look elsewhere. Or you think, “How can I transition from a practicing doctor to a coach, trainer, or something else?” One thing is for certain – change is hard.
The most difficult thing about transitions is that you’ve never been taught how to quit. You’ve trained yourself to work, and succeed, and suck it up. But quitting really isn’t a word you’re used to. But there are times that walking away from a job or position is the right thing to do, and there is value in doing it well.
I also want to try and re-phrase the word “quitting.” You’re transitioning to another thing, whether it’s for personal reasons or retirement, but you aren’t giving up. Changing and adjusting to your world, your family, your mental health, your inner core, and following your internal agency and goals, is good and healthy. It’s certainly not giving up. Sometimes you need to think about the details of the transition.
So here are three things to think about when transitioning out of your job or practice:
First, carefully review your contract.
Most providers have a physician employment agreement, or an investment in something they need to unwind. Sit down, review your contract, and start to go over all the things that are going to be “triggered” by you leaving. OK, so maybe you have a non-compete. Think about whether you will practice moving forward and if the non-compete is a barrier. Or think about things you can do for a certain period of time that don’t violate it but keep the door open in the future. What about a buy-out of your shares if you own part of a business, and what’s the notice you need to give in order to get out? Sometimes there is a 90-day notice in employment agreements or even a year-long notice in some partnership agreements, so you need to be aware of this in advance. Go through all your legal agreements and role-play what happens if you quit, resign, or sell.
Second, think about how you’ll notify your patients.
One of the hardest things about leaving a job or position is saying goodbye, to not only the staff that you really enjoyed working with but your patients. Most states have notification requirements that are specific to your state that you have a duty to notify your patients and let them know how to get their medical records. Often it’s a 30-day notice that you are leaving, and sometimes you tell them where you are going, and you can then let them know how to contact you if necessary. It’s important not to just walk out the door and leave patients wondering what happened. Take the time to talk to your patients and explain that hey, I’ve really enjoyed treating you, but I’m moving on.
Third, don’t just jump to the next thing without really thinking it through.
You may not know exactly now, but you want to set yourself up for the most successful version of yourself. Take the time to do some inner work, like therapy and breathing and focusing on things that fuel you while you are also protecting the backbone of your hard work you’ve done. Don’t burn bridges, keep your license and insurance, and allow yourself the freedom to take the next step.
I read about one family medicine physician who said it like this: the first three months allowed her to regroup. She said she had a lot of strange and stressful dreams that first few months. The second three months helped her reevaluate her priorities and decide about next steps. The final three months were about preparation and transition, including a cross-country move. Not everyone will face it like this, nor have the luxury or money to take six months to move to the next thing, but think about building in the time it takes to transition well. You don’t want to jump from one job you aren’t happy with to a new job with the same trigger points.
Transitions are good and healthy, but they can also be overwhelming. Try using these three tips the next time you make a big change.
Amanda Hill is a health care attorney.