New Physician Career Transition Posse Member Dr. Kay!


Time for Career Change

I’m very honored and excited to introduce our third member of The Physician Career Transition Posse – the one, the only, the invincible, “Dr. Kay!”

For those of you new to the Career Transition Posse, the members are physicians who graciously share their career journey as it unfolds in real time. They adopt an alias in the beginning and may reveal their true identity later on.

Any show of support and encouragement from you is greatly appreciated. It makes a huge difference to have some comments and kudos below.

Without further ado, here is my interview with “Dr. Kay.”

Q: What would you like us to know about you?
Dr. Kay: I am a physiatrist (PM&R) and I have been in practice for 18 years. I have been wanting to transition out of clinical medicine, or medicine altogether, for many of those years.

I am married and have one child. My husband is self-employed and works at home. We are committed to staying in the community where we live until our son graduates high school.

Q: What kind of practice setting are you in?
Dr. Kay:
I’m currently employed by a hospital in an outpatient pain management practice. Previously, I’ve worked in an outpatient private practice and also in a hospital-based practice doing both inpatient and outpatient work. I have enjoyed aspects of what I do, and have been pretty happy with my work at times.

However, those times have become rarer the longer I’m in practice. I’ve been through some rough periods in all of my jobs and during those times I’ve told myself that it’s temporary and things will improve when I move to a new position. I’ve now reached a place where I can’t imagine that any other clinical position would be any better than the one I have now.

Q: How do you feel about patient care?
Dr. Kay: If I am being completely honest, I don’t enjoy patient care anymore. Most of the patients that I see have already seen a multitude of physicians and have had a complete diagnostic workup. They’ve been through a lot of treatments. They have painful conditions that will never improve to their satisfaction. Many of these patients do not like the remaining treatment options that I have to offer. Patients and their referring providers often expect that I will prescribe opioids. I spend a lot of time telling patients that I won’t be doing that.

In addition to the patient care piece, I find working for a hospital to be frustrating. I don’t have any interest in administration or leadership, but I do like to have some input into how things are managed and run on a daily basis. I have learned that my opinions, even when solicited, don’t really matter much.

Q: What do you want to be different in your career?
Dr. Kay: I want a career with very little or no patient care and I do not want to work in a hospital. I would like to be intellectually challenged.  It would be nice to do something that would help patients. I would like to work fewer hours so that I have more time to do the things outside of work that I love doing.

Q: What are some clinical or nonclinical career options you’re exploring?
Dr. Kay: I am interested in doing chart review for disability claims or utilization review. I like to do independent medical exams (IMEs). I’m also looking into life care planning.

Q: What’s it like to be in this place of uncertainty?
Dr. Kay: I’m impatient and wishing that I had started this process years ago. I am constantly trying to make time to do research and figure things out in the midst of a busy work schedule and family responsibilities.

Q: On a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 being very confident, how confident are you that this process will work out?
Dr. Kay: 7.

Q: What helps you take steps into the unknown when the outcome is not clear?
Dr. Kay: I am generally an independent person, but I am also a cautious person. Having a somewhat systematic plan is helpful. You have given me a framework to help me focus on the steps that I need to take.

I also have to remind myself that it’s worth doing this—I don’t have to keep working at something that is not for me anymore.

Q: What is your biggest fear about this change process?
Dr. Kay: My biggest fear and the primary reason why I haven’t pursued a change up to this point is that I could be putting my family’s financial security at risk.

Years ago, when I had just finished my residency, I told our financial advisor that I intended to quit medicine once I had my school loans paid off. He has the opinion that it would be foolish of me to give up the financial security that being a physician provides. I hear his voice in my head every time I think about making a change. My loans have been paid off for about 8 years now. I am less happy in my career than ever before. I know it’s important for me to make a change, but it’s scary.

Q: What is your biggest hope about this change process?
Dr. Kay: I’m really hoping that I find a way to make a living that does not involve direct patient care.

Q: What are you learning about yourself in this process?
Dr. Kay: In thinking about how I got to this place in my career and recognizing how unhappy I am with it, I’ve really considered what actually motivated me to become a doctor in the first place and why I have kept at it for so many years. While the specifics of all of that have been somewhat painful to examine, simply acknowledging it all has allowed me to be more objective about what I really want to do.

Thank you Dr. Kay!! I’m really grateful to you and the other members of the Physician Career Transition Posse for being so honest and open. It’s incredibly helpful for others to hear they are not the only one struggling. You are leading and lighting the way!

The next blog will be in 2 weeks on July 24th.  This one is going to be about MONEY honey and income possibilities.

Be back soon!




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  1. Sue Zimmermann on July 10, 2019 at 1:35 pm

    Thank you for this thoughtful post. You say you’re impatient and wish you had started the process years ago. I get the impression that it has taken time for you to identify what you want and what you don’t want – it’s an evolutionary process, so don’t feel bad. You will be able to make the leap when the time is right!

    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 2:34 pm

      Hi Sue! What a great perspective you shared for Dr. Kay. Thank you very much for your support of her. It’s so true that for many things in life we wish we had acted sooner or done something more quickly. But it realy is the case that we’re ready when we’re ready, and not a minute sooner. There are a lot of forces at play, just like the financia advisor whose voice she hears when she wants to leave. We all have these competing voices we need to reckon with. And like trying to get something done through a committee, it takes time – more time than we want to find consensus. When we do start to make changes, we can tell ourself, “I’m doing this now. I could delay another 5, 10 years.. but I’m taking action and changing the course of my life.” That is powerful! Thank you again Sue! We apprecaite you!

  2. John on July 10, 2019 at 1:41 pm

    Thanks for sharing, Dr. Kay.

    She hit on so many feelings and beliefs of those who have lost their passion for patient care.

    It sounds like she has a plan, and I can’t wait to see how things turn out.

    Life care planning seems to be a new and growing career option. I’d like to hear more about that.

    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 2:42 pm

      Thank you John for reading and supporting Dr. Kay! We will definitely keep you posted on her journey. It means a lot to have you take the time to comment and be part of this process. It’s not just the person making the changes, but it’s everyone who is bearing witness to a real live person saying “I’m going to figure this out, ” that gives energy and validation to the commitment. We are not alone. We are a strong and united village when we support each other.

      Regarding Life Care Planning. It has typical been the domain of nurses, but physicians becoming more invovled. Here is a site where physician Life Care Planners are offering their services:

  3. Elizabeth on July 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Best wishes, Dr. Kay and thanks for sharing your journey. Looking forward to hearing how it goes and I am guessing you have much to offer in those non-clinical options you are looking into.

    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 2:58 pm

      Hi Eliza! Great to hear from you have your kind words for Dr. Kay. Yes – you are right. She does have a lot to offer in the non-clinical realm. This is true for most physicians. Having medical training and experience as a physician IS unique and the skills and knowledge acquired can be parlayed in a wide range of ways. And even if we put the specific knowledge aside, there is significant value in being an intelligent, hard-working, and a proven learner. These are good foundational qualities for someone wanting to have their own business or be good at something new. Too often we underestimate what we bring to the table. Once we own it, we can better “sell” what we do have!

  4. Erin on July 10, 2019 at 2:28 pm

    Thanks, Dr. Kay! I’m looking forward to seeing where you end up! I too am very curious about IMEs and LCP…

    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 3:28 pm

      Hi Erin! Great to hear from you too. Thanks a bunch for being part of the Transition Possee by showing your support. Here is the link for the physician life care planners:

      And here is one for the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners – they might be able to give some info for IME’s for your specialty.

      Thanks so much for commenting!

  5. VagabondMD on July 10, 2019 at 3:28 pm

    Dr. Kay,

    Best of luck on your journey! You are not alone, far from it.

    Working with Heather will certainly improve your confidence in yourself and develop career transition tools and options. I hope that there is a follow up to this post down the road when you are settled into a new career.


    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 3:41 pm

      Thank you Vagabond MD for your kind words and for the encouragement for Dr. Kay! We will definitely be posting some updates along the way so you can see how the process unfolds.

  6. Susan on July 10, 2019 at 7:13 pm

    I am a physician who has done utilization review for a major health insurer and would be glad to share information with Dr Kay if she wishes to reach out to me. Also any of your other physician readers….I ended up transitioning to non clinical work when my partners and I were downsized by the medical center that we had worked for….So I know it can be confusing to figure out what we are qualified for and how to get into it. I would be glad to share my information with others….

    • Heather Fork on July 10, 2019 at 8:08 pm

      Hi Susan! How lovely of you to offer to share some helpful information with Dr. Kay and others. Thank you kindly! There really is a lot we can do to support each other so no one has to feel like they’re going it alone and struggling. We help patients all the time. We know how to help. We just don’t have always know which of our colleagues need help because we tend to keep our game face on. I will reach out to you via email. Thanks again!!

    • Del on August 1, 2019 at 11:46 am

      It was almost unbelievable for me to read Dr. Kay’s story. I have been holding the exact same feelings for almost as many years as she has. And we’re in the same specialty. I’ve been struggling (really suffering) about what to do to transition out and haven’t been able to get a viable role as yet. It has taken me so long to even get to being able to admit that I’ve come to feel this way. I, too, should have made the move years ago. I just didn’t know what to do or who to ask. Could I perhaps also connect with Susan to learn more about utilization review. I would appreciate any help. Thank you

      • Heather Fork on August 1, 2019 at 2:33 pm

        Hello Del, I’m sorry you have been struggling so. It is unfortunate that medicine has become such a difficult place for so many good doctors such as yourself and Dr. Kay. And even if we put all the changes in healthcare aside, sometimes it’s not a great fit. Period. I will reach out to via email regarding Dr. Susan. Thank you for reading and commenting. I will be posting updates by Dr. Kay as her journey progresses! Wishing you all the best with your own path.

  7. Marina Claudio on July 11, 2019 at 1:42 pm

    Thank you for sharing your story, Dr. Kay! That fear is real and often delays the implementation of our transition plans. The support of our families, friends and colleagues is a powerful motivator in moving forward with a well-thought-our plan. As physicians, we are trained to put our needs on a back burner form early on (“eat, pee and sleep when you can”). It is so easy to feel guilty about abandoning clinical practice even when we no longer enjoy it because we may feel that our patients need us or financial stability potentially becomes threatened as we plan an exit strategy. Sounds like you are pushing forward and I am looking forward to the updates!

    • Heather Fork on July 11, 2019 at 2:52 pm

      Very well said Marina! You articulated so clearly the push-pull that often keeps fine physicians feeling stuck between wanting something better and feeling duty-bound. The uncertainty of making changes can feel to risky. As Marie Forleo says, “It’s all figureoutable.” And it is by just taking it one step at a time and getting clear on what’s important in life. Yes! We will be sharing updates. Thank so much for your spot-on comments.

  8. Helen Rhodes MD on July 18, 2019 at 2:53 pm

    Thank you Dr. Kay for sharing your story. And being so honest. I feel you’ve made great progress in your career transition by simply identifying that you don’t want to be involved with direct patient care anymore. That is HUGE! Wishing you the very best and can’t wait to hear what you end up doing next.

    • Heather Fork on July 18, 2019 at 3:25 pm

      What a great perspective Helen! You are so right just knowing what you don’t want IS super helpful because it allows you to start thinking about what you do want. It’s often hard to admit these truths, but when we own the truth, it is a powerful guide. Many thanks for your supportive and wise words for Dr. Kay.

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She taught me how to put into practice what I knew in theory, that taking care of myself was a priority. I learned to give myself permission to make the career choices that would give me the work-life balance I desperately craved and needed. The process of confronting fears and insecurities was a bit scary, but well worth it in the end. I am now a happier version of myself with a non-clinical job that I truly enjoy!

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"After 10 years in outpatient family medicine I felt stuck and knew I needed a change but I didn’t know where to begin. Thankfully I found Heather and she guided me every step of the way."

She helped me carefully assess my interests, strengths and passions while also providing me with constructive changes to implement in my job search and resume. With Heather’s help, I just landed a fully remote UM position and I am also exploring coaching as well. Now I feel like the possibilities are endless and I’m excited for this next chapter in the nonclinical world! Thank you Heather for changing my life for the better.

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I had been a practicing Internist for 20 years when I reached a point when I needed to make a serious change in my career path. While I enjoyed seeing patients, I was not satisfied with my life-work balance. My job was taking me away from my family and left me little time and energy to do other things that are important and meaningful to me. I came across Dr. Fork's podcast; The Doctor's Crossing Carpe Diem Podcast, it is such an informative and enjoyable podcast for any physician who wants to do more with their career and life in general. Then I had the pleasure to get career coaching from Heather, it was truly an amazing experience. Heather has broad knowledge of all the different career paths that are available for physicians, she is so insightful and very easy to talk to. She helped me clarify my goals, examine my own mindset and definition of success. Together we developed a clear plan and actionable steps to reach these goals. I eventually made a career transition to a remote non-clinical position that allows me to do meaningful work which aligns with my personal and professional goals and priorities. 

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I am deeply grateful that I can continue my work in the emergency department and serve my community as a physician as well as a coach. Working with Heather was a transformative gift that enabled me to rediscover my true self, find clarity in my life's purpose, and unlock my full potential. Through her guidance, I not only reignited the powerful, confident, and bold version of myself I had lost sight of but also realized the boundless possibilities that lay ahead.

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