Monday, June 8, 2009

Why Pursue a Non-Clinical Career?

I've met many people over the last several years who have decided to pursue a non-clinical career in medicine. Why do people choose not to practice medicine? I'm writing about these things in my new book (which is in process), but I thought I'd highlight a few things in this blog.

Here are some of the most common reasons why physicians (and other healthcare professionals) choose to pursue various types of non-clinical jobs and opportunities:
  • Scheduling flexibility. You'd be surprised to know how many people work from home and maintain very flexible schedules.
  • No malpractice headaches. Enough said.
  • Family obligations. The world of clinical medicine can put a severe strain on families and relationships. I know - my wife is a physician.
  • Obstacles with licensure. This is particularly true for foreign medical graduates who are unable to obtain a U.S. license. Also, licensed U.S. healthcare professionals have various reasons why they may face obstacles with their professional licenses.
  • Pressured into medicine. I know many medical students who were pressured into medical school. They don't enjoy clinical medicine but many of them feel "stuck."
  • Burnout. Physicians may experience severe burnout and they may need a break (sometimes a permanent break) from clinical medicine.
  • $. It's true, many choose the non-clinical route because there are more lucrative opportunities.
  • To expand their creativity. Some people simply want to have a career in music, art, teaching, or something that is totally different from the clinical world. That's their passion, so consider the transition a second career.
  • Less stress. For some, a non-clinical career is less stress compared to the clinical setting. For others, it may be more stress. In any case, it's certainly a totally different type of stress.
  • Personal development. Many seasoned clinicians may pursue opportunities in healthcare administration so that they can make an impact on a larger scale.
  • To improve public health. Instead of making a small difference on an individual level, they recognize the greater potential of making differences on a population health level.
  • To escape boredom. Yes, clinical medicine can become very boring and mundane. Maybe you chose the wrong specialty.
  • To find a better fit. Many physicians find that clinical medicine simply isn't the "right fit" for their personality, skills, family life, etc. It could be a combination of several of the reasons listed above. For them, the transition into the non-clinical world is a logical step towards finding something that is a better fit.
My intent is not to create a comprehensive list here, but to open up some discussion about some of the common issues that clinicians face. I've met people from every single category listed here and I've learned something new each time I've interacted with someone from a different background. I'm currently in the process of compiling personal stories so that I can share them on this site (and in my new book).

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