The reality of practicing medicine in 21st century America is hardly the glamorous or heroic lifestyle that is often portrayed in the media. Most primary care physicians are overworked and underpaid; they must see an enormous number of patients routinely to meet the financial obligations of basic needs, business overhead, student loan repayment and malpractice insurance.
For many physicians who entered the profession to help patients, the daily grind of voluminous paperwork, shrinking control over their professional livelihoods and increased risk of lawsuit has sapped their enthusiasm to practice medicine. While many of the most dedicated continue on in their profession, many others seek out careers which are more lucrative or less demanding.
These new careers can be important lifelines that not only revitalize passion for life but also offer professional challenges and rewards that most primary care careers are missing.
Entrepreneur—While business may seem less noble than saving lives, it can provide numerous incentives that medicine cannot. Many practicing and retired doctors find lucrative opportunities by founding a startup. Most physicians turned entrepreneurs like to leverage their hard won medical knowledge into a healthcare company, but with their hard work ethic and ample intellectual capacity, doctors can recognize a consumer need in virtually any industry and start a business to satisfy it.
Healthcare Administrator—Organizational management is closely related to entrepreneurism, but is often a hybrid of business management and medicine. Many hospital administrators use their intimate knowledge of primary medical care to help inform policy decisions. Prospective administrators should also be aware that mere medical education is often insufficient to operate a large hospital or ACO; it will require a rigorous background in business administration.
Healthcare Consultant—Many physicians find the role of an independent consultant very appealing because of the ability to serve the healthcare—or many other industries—without being constrained by a daily routine. While medical organizations are the primary clients for medical consultants, there are many other fields that regularly require their services like the media, attorneys, or work place safety groups.
Writer—There are many online organizations that are eager to hire a physician who can provide valuable information to visitors. Writing and editing by prior medical practitioners can be extremely lucrative if they can engage consumers and offer high value content through blogs, Social media, or press releases.
Academic—For many physicians, there is enormous appeal in teaching upcoming medical and pre-med students. They can often find positions in local medical schools or undergraduate programs. While these positions are not as financially rewarding as other careers, the opportunity to help prepare students for a career in medicine can be emotionally very satisfying.
Locum Tenens Doctor—While it may not be ideal for many burnt out physicians, for others who still want to help patients, a temporary role as a locum tenens physician can be the right combination of caregiving and flexibility. Locum tenens physicians have greater freedom to take a position and design a schedule. In some cases, temporary placements along with travel, insurance and licensing may be managed by the staffing agency.
It can be dispiriting to see the end of a career in medicine, but with the right outlook, one can view a stint in primary medicine as the foundation for a more rewarding career.
CEO, Onyx M.D.
Disclaimer: Any personal views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent and are not intended to represent the views of the company or its employees.