I’m super excited to introduce to you our first ever Doctor’s Crossing Career Transition Posse! The Transition Posse is composed of several of my intrepid clients who have graciously agreed to share their career transitions with you in real time.
It’s not easy to open up that Pandora’s box and ask that million-dollar question, “Is medicine the right path for me?”
It can be even scarier when we decide to give notice without a plan B. But this is precisely what these physicians have done. Each physician recently gave notice without knowing what’s next.
Leave medicine without a plan B? What are they thinking? Quick – someone call their parents! Are they C-R-A Z-Y?
Having done the same thing myself over a decade ago, in my humble opinion, no, they are not C-R-A-Z-Y. Mom, Dad, if you are reading this, did you think I was crazy?
There are many ways to do a career transition, some definitely are not ideal, but there is no one right way. Many of my clients had a new job lined up before they exited stage left. They had a plan B and plan B worked. Financial considerations and family obligations can put the pressure on us stay in a job until we have a plan B.
But sometimes work is so darn demanding and stressful that, in spite of our best efforts, we can’t figure out a plan B. Or maybe we don’t want to jump into something right away; we need some time and space to explore options. That can actually be a plan. I call it the “Safari Plan,” as safaris are journeys taken with purpose, having the goal of exploring the wild or unknown. When people ask what you’re doing, you just tell them, “I’m on safari.”
One of my intentions in sharing the Transition Posse with you is to show that leaving your job without a new career path lined up can be a viable option. We have much to learn from these daring doctors who are embracing uncertainty and letting us ride alongside them.
And now, I would like to begin with our first Transition Posse member, Dr. Gigi. (We are not using real names to protect the physicians’ privacy, but they will have a chance to reveal their identities when their transitions are complete, if they so desire).
What would you like us to know about you?
My name is Dr. Gigi. I’m an OB/GYN physician, previously in an academic setting, now working for a community hospital. Becoming a physician has been my lifelong goal.
What made you decide to consider changing your career path?
After I completed training and started working as an attending, I had moments of feeling “Is this it? What’s next?” I didn’t know if that was because my whole life had followed a predictable path and there was always a next step. As time went by I realized that I was just not happy at work – I did not find it intellectually stimulating, the daily tasks of clinical practice were exhausting (busy clinic, phone calls, EHR, backup call, too many intense patient interactions, etc.), and the whole experience was not how I thought practicing medicine would be. In addition, I felt that I was constantly letting my patients down by not meeting their expectations. I did online research into physicians leaving clinical practice and realized that I was not the only one and that there were many nonclinical options I could explore.
Is clinical practice still an option? Why or why not?
I would say yes simply because anything is possible and you don’t know what the future holds. I have always wanted to be a doctor and I love medicine in general. However, at this moment it is difficult for me to envision a clinical setting that I would find tolerable. As I realized things about my personality it became clear that the typical OB/GYN practice is not the best fit for me- and I’m not the best fit for it.
What are some career options you’re exploring?
I’m currently deciding between staying in medicine/switching specialties (which would require going through a different residency) versus leaving the full-time practice of medicine. I’m exploring doing telemedicine part-time, chart reviews, and part-time opportunities in utilization management. I’m also exploring medical writing and informatics.
What is it like to be in this place of uncertainty while you’re figuring your career out?
It is scary at times to think that in a few months I’ll be without a job or any guarantee that I’ll be readily getting a different job. Also, it’s scary to think what if I change my mind, how easy/difficult would it be to go back? The feeling of uncertainty sometimes causes me some anxiety because I am not used to it. On the other hand, it is exciting to feel that I am giving myself a second chance at getting my career right. I am excited about the future possibilities.
On a scale of 0 – 10, with 10 feeling very confident, how confident are you at this time that this process will work out?
I would give it an 8. I feel that I’m doing the right thing by making a change if I’m unhappy with the current situation. I feel I can’t go wrong by trying to be happy. I don’t give it a 10 at this time because while I know by the end of this process I’ll be at a better place than where I am now, I’m still not 100% confident that I’ll be able to find a career path that is as fulfilling as I would like.
Anything else you would like to share?
If you had asked me 6 months ago how I felt about practicing medicine, I would have said that it was not how I thought it would be but I signed up for it many years ago, there’s nothing I can do about it, and it would be crazy for me to leave medicine.
This has not been an easy process so far- it was a struggle for me to decide to leave my job. I felt guilty about considering leaving medicine. I felt that I owed it to society, to my patients, and to my younger self to continue practicing. There were many sleepless nights as I struggled with my guilt and with the reality of my daily unhappiness at work. I am glad I decided to be honest with myself and make the conscious decision to try and be happy. No one else was going to do it for me.
It takes a lot of courage to make a major career change, and even more to put yourself out there in the public eye. A deep bow of appreciation and gratitude to Dr. Gigi and the other posse members. We will be cheering you on and supporting you through this process.
In two weeks, on Wednesday, April 4, the blog will feature our second member of the Transition Posse, Dr. Gabriel. Stay tuned!
I feel your pain and applaud your bravery. Not every personality can fit into the grueling practice of today’s “ Medicine”
We are no longer physicians , we are tools of big insurance, big hospital conglomerates and government mandates. I left without a plan B. I am not sure what I will do next but being healthier and sleeping is a priority. I abhor EHRs and seeing patients with complicated medical histories in a small time slot.
If you can mesh together your part time gigs , I think that is wonderful!
Thank you Sledge for your supportive comments and encouragement! Your priority to be healthier and catch up on sleep is a great one. It’s hard to make significant plans when our basic needs aren’t being met. Wishing you the best with your own transition. Feel free to keep us posted. There is power in community.
Thank you Dr. GiGi. While I enjoyed medical school & graduate school, the reality of the real world hit me, when I started orthopedic surgery residency & I quickly realized that the healthcare system was broken (in every facet imaginable). I not only realized that I did not enjoy practicing in this environment, but that I would not be able to reach my dreams in Medicine.
The day I turned in my badge/ pager – was invigorating, yet extremely SCARY (in very sense of the word) – societal, parental, friends, family, colleagues, co-workers (it was taboo to leave practice – even though it happens in every other field – law, politics, finance, business, etc) – another testament that MD’s are no longer physicians but merely corporate “tools”. Additionally, back then the “MD Career Transition” community was small & so it was hard to find others going through the same things as you & hard to find someone to help guide you through it.
Luckily, I had prior business experience investing in stocks, & real estate, and so I had somewhat of a Plan B – though not solid. And through sheer grit & determination over the last 10 years, grew these companies so that now I work if/ when/ where/ & w whom I want to. But it was an extremely difficult journey – one that takes a LOT of courage b/c you will be faced w/ fears, doubt, insecurity, failure, naysayers, backstabbers, gossip, failures, so I applaud all of you who have taken this next step in your journey.
Thank you Chris, for commenting and sharing your own experience, very impressive. I heard you will be speaking at the SEAK Non-clinical Careers conference this fall on real estate investing for physicians. I know this is an area that is of interest to a number of physicians and I am sure you will have some excellent and practical advice. Kudos to you for determining that orthopedic surgery was not the right fit for you. Not an easy decision with so many factors weighing in, but it looks like things are working out well for you. Congratulations.
Thank You to Dr. Gigi and Heather Fork. Excellent post and series.
This is genius! The perfect way to inform and inspire us readers AND share a hint of the kind of work that you’re (HF) doing with physicians who are suffering.
At the same time, I must also recognize the courage of Dr. Gigi to share her story. It’s inspiring and scary at the same time. But it serves to encourage others to take action when their current careers aren’t bringing them the joy and satisfaction they so desired when embarking on their medical education.
Keep the stories coming!
Thank you John, your words and sentiments are much appreciated. It IS hard to make these changes. Rarely, it may only take a few months, but more often a year or two or more. We need good friends, peers, and family along the way to help us- not only make it through but to enjoy the process. It is after all our life, whether we have it figured out or not. The podcasts that you’re doing are an invaluable resource to physicians in transition. I learn a lot from listening to them every week. Keep them coming!
Your father is incredibly proud of you and the way you are managing your life!!
Awe shucks Dad! Thank you so very much, that means a lot to me. I wish all of my fellow physicians could have parents like mine. You always let me choose my own path and never made me feel wrong or stupid for making the choices I did (some better than others!). Not all of us can be like you with one great career that has been your lifelong passion into your 80’s (an esteemed research physicist), so thank you for understanding my need to have a second career!
Thank you Heather for highlighting this transition posse. Career transitions seem to be more expected and accepted in other industries, but I feel we should embrace the same freedom as physicians. We paid for our education in terms of time and money, and many of us spent years practicing before even making the transition.
Dr. Gigi mentioned guilt and I think that is unfortunately all too common for physicians who decide to leave medicine. We are here to tell you Dr. Gigi you are guilty of nothing but choosing your own path and living this one life you have on your own terms. Many people complain about their circumstances, but do nothing to change it, so I applaud you.
I love you father’s comment Heather – so awesome to see.
Very well said Sara! I appreciate very much all of your most kind and thoughtful comments. I agree with you 100% that there need not be guilt surrounding choosing one’s own path. This needs to be true even more than ever in medicine because the system has changed so drastically from what it was when most of took our MCATS. There is no way to know after 7 – 13+ years of training how we will feel and what the day-to-day practice of medicine will be like. The only thing that is certain, is that things are always changing.
Thanks for all of the above comments. After 30 years, I need to be done with clinical medicine. But where to turn? Can’t afford to retire yet (started my family later than many). But my sanity is being challenged. Looking into several options.
Thanks for reading and commenting Cathy. Depending on your specialty and what non-clinical areas you are interested in, you might find that a new direction brings you a greater income and perhaps even an earlier retirement. Here’s to finding some good options for yourself!
The posse is a great idea, Dr. Fork. I appreciate Dr. Gigi‘s comments and am rooting for all the docs considering such a major life transition. Kudos to all of you!
Hello Dr. Silvertooth! Thank you very much for your super supportive comments. Your positive energy and enthusiasm mean a great deal and are a perfect example of how every voice counts, and even as one person, we can make a difference in the lives of others. When we don’t feel so alone in our struggles, it is easier to feel hopeful and take those key first steps toward positive change. Thank you again!
Thank you for this platform! I have considered a change for a year but kept pushing myself until my health took me out of the game the last few months. And I now have no doubts that the practice of medicine has become a game I no longer want to play. I haven’t had a Plan B pop up yet as I’ve worked on healing (body and spirit) but I also know I cannot go back to the system as it is now. I’m going to find my inner badass again and put out in the Universe what I want to show up; I have many gifts and talents that don’t require me to be a physician. Here’s to those of you forging your paths and not letting others define who “you” are or should be. I look forward to reading more.
You are most welcome Dr. Dana! I applaud your commitment to finding your ‘inner badass” again exploring compelling ways to use your gifts and talents I hope your health continues to improve. It is a shame, and a real problem, that so many doctors are having to jeopardize their health while delivering healthcare to others. If the powers that be don’t make our health and well-being a priorty, we have to take control and not accept an environment that is unsupportive and damaging. Kudos to you for taking these steps. Thank you for your post and encouraging words!
I am so glad I came across this site. It is relieving to read sentiments very similar to my own….it has been such a lonely and scary road, making the transition out of clinical medicine….I so needed to know I wasn’t alone and that I wasn’t crazy for taking such a leap…..so thank you fellow physicians for sharing your stories and thank you Heather for this platform…..it’s all very much appreciated.
Hello Dr. Nneka, you are so incredibly welcome! I’m so glad you found the Doctor’s Crossing as well. It can feel very lonely and scary to be on your own and feeling like the path forward is obscured in darkness. I am very appreciative as well of the physicians who generously shared their stories with me and my readers! And I must say, that having comments like your and the others cheers us all on and enables us to keep doing this work, so thank you and all the to you on your journey. Heather