Thinking about changing jobs? Here’s what physicians should consider.

A large percentage of doctors end up switching jobs within the first five years of practice.  This really isn’t surprising given that the medical training experience doesn’t necessarily correlate with the medical practice experience. Many doctors work hard throughout their entire training only to realize that their expectations do not necessarily align with reality.  Is it our fault that we don’t really know what we got ourselves into?

Perhaps taking q3 call as a resident didn’t seem too tough in your late twenties, but getting brutalized every third night in your thirties and forties starts getting really old.  Maybe your kids’ private school tuition is digging into your academic salary, and your escape plan might entail joining your medical school roommate whose surgical center pays out dividends the size of your salary.

Do you call it quits and seek greener pastures?  Or do you grit your teeth and adjust up your savings rate to weather the storm?  Before you decide to jump ship, you have to make sure that you are coming out ahead.  I’ve seen plenty of doctors job change every few years, some even more frequent than that.  I cringe at the number of 401k accounts that these doctors have opened with all of these job changes.  What about the bank accounts that they’ve opened and closed in every city that they’ve moved to?  Every time you start afresh, you end up picking up extra baggage that you have to decide whether to purge with each move.

If you feel like you are working in living hell at your job, here are some considerations to make before deciding to jump ship.

Financial strain

Life alone can be expensive.  Bills, lifestyle creep, and unexpected repairs add up over time.  Any sort of disruption in your routine will have the potential to incur costs.  One way to analyze financially whether a move would be worthwhile to make a move is to place a hard number on the increased costs during a job change process:

You’re potentially looking at a five to six figure cost when you change jobs.

In this scenario, you might be looking an all-in expense of roughly $60,000 if you make a move.  Chances are that there will be additional costs with licensing, credentialing, and immeasurable costs. Is that worth the change of scenery? Only you can decide.

Social disruption 

Moving elsewhere means that you will have to re-establish your social circles.  Your children will end up separating ways from their friends and school.  If they are in high school, then their chances of entering college might be affected by a move.  You might have to find a new church group.  Depending on how much you value your social environment, there can a significant opportunity cost if you end up relocating.  Ultimately, you have to decide which factors are more important to you and your family long term.  Money? Friends? Sanity at work?

Learning curve at work

No matter how seasoned you are in your profession, change comes at a cost.  New hospital environments mean that you will need to learn a new electronic health record, repeat the oft-hated online HIPAA training modules, and become acclimated to the new work environment.  You will have new coworkers, new culture, and new regulations.  Depending on what you are escaping from your original job, a new environment might be refreshing.

Family disruption

If you are the sole breadwinner in your household, you will have the additional stress that your family’s well-being is dependent upon your income.  For any of you who are in this situation, you realize that if you make the wrong decision they will also have to ensure the stress.  Are the gains worth it?

Play the long ball

Your career plans should aim to win the war.  Take into account the financial, social, and mental challenges that come with any switch and make a decision.  Life is short; you have to remind yourself to take charge of your own life and take calculated chances.  If a career move will end up costing you $100,000 for the first year but allows you to enjoy a fruitful thirty-year career, it might be worthwhile.

“Smart Money, MD” is an ophthalmologist who blogs at the self-titled site, Smart Money MD.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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