Thursday, December 31, 2009

Growing interest in non-clinical career opportunities among physicians

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?

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