Physician resources

Nonclinical Career Changes

While physicians represent a highly educated segment of the work force, the competition for nonclinical jobs is still fierce. Changing from clinical work to a nonclinical career takes time, research, and legwork.

“It is critical to understand that most physicians are not going to be able to just walk away from their practice and find another career opportunity that will replace their income or satisfy their desire to contribute in a meaningful way,” warns Dr. Bob Uslander. “It can happen, but it’s not typical.”

First, physicians needs to get a sense of what they want to do and then explore how they can do it, whether that means more schooling or hands-on job experience. They have to develop relationships and put in the time understanding the business.

“It takes work to make a career change,” says Dr. Uslander, a 20-year emergency physician and founder of Doctors On Purpose, “but consider the alternatives: a life that is unfulfilling, unsatisfying and uninspiring.”

Nonclinical career change takes planning, funding

For Dr. Arlen Meyers, his upbringing and early childhood experiences blended with the education, training, and experience he accumulated to lead him down his career path to becoming a bioentrepreneur. Dr. Meyers is a Professor in the Departments of Otolaryngology, Dentistry and Engineering at the University of Colorado, as well as President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs. “Bioentrepreneurs do so as part nature (20 percent) and part nurture (80 percent).”

Dr. Meyers says he’s built to be a medical educator as well as a clinician. “And fortunately, I did not have to give up one to do the other.”

A columnist for Modern Physician, Dr. Meyers has written extensively on nonclinical careers and career transitioning for physicians. Among the wealth of advice he shares with physicians considering nonclinical jobs is an emphasis on financial preparedness. Doctors should first take a serious look at their checkbooks before making a move away from their medical careers.

And as with patient care, a financial strategy for a nonclinical career changes should include the following, Dr. Meyers advises:

1. A financial history – a clear-eyed assessment of your current budget, and what you want to achieve
2. A physical exam – such as a monthly budget
3. A diagnosis – can you honestly afford the change?
4. A treatment plan – take the next steps forward

While the common assumption about MDs who make the leap from traditional medicine to nonclinical careers is that they are risk-takers, Dr. Meyers disagrees.

“Most entrepreneurs don't take risk,” he points out. “They assess and manage the risks and rewards.”

Busy physicians interested in nonclinical careers can consider online master's degree programs in areas such as public health and health administration. Online learning opportunities offer flexibility for working professionals.

Read more on nonclinical physician careers:

Next: Jobs doctors can transition into

More: Physician salaries often drive careers

More: Nonclinical careers offer MDs rewarding options

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Back: Other possible jobs for doctors

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