Physicians Giving Up Medicine (2)


Knowing that many others have been through this can be a comfort. There are many various solutions. Some doctors can alter their current career path or start-over in another profession.

“To survive burn-out, you have to prioritize exactly what is important to you. Career, family, free time, community involvement, research, or whatever. You may need to quit your current job and look for one which is more compatible to the life-style you want and need to have… Take some time off and don’t work at all…things may start to fall into place then, once all the stressors have been relieved. Just remember, you’re not the only one in burn-out phase.” says AA.

Alternative options within the medical profession are out there, even if difficult to find. Tracy says, “I really struggled to find something that I could get by with. So, I wound up in urgent care. It’s a great job in terms of hours and lifestyle. Extremely low stress and I work “full time” which is 36 hrs per week (three 12-hour days), about half of what I was working before and less than I’d have worked doing part-time at my other job. No call, no nights, no rounds, only one weekend a month. The pay is considerably less than my full-time family practice job, but considerably more than anywhere I looked into for part-time work (and fewer hours of actual work than the “part-time” family practice jobs).” Although Tracy finds the work can be a little boring and worries about career suicide, she says “I have a fairly happy life now. I’m content and my family is happy and healthy and functioning. We are expecting our third child in January, something that would never have happened in my previous career path.”

MS, a psychiatrist was once responsible for 250 or 400 beds in a state hospital, she supervised 14 psychiatrists, and was involved in resident and student training. One day, after 15 years at the same hospital, she just resigned. She now happily works half-time at a satellite clinic and runs her own private practice (another option for many physicians). Starting a practice can seem like adding stress on top of stress, but for many physicians this is an ideal solution.

J gives her advice, “Why not use as many avenues as possible to seek other “like-minded” professionals (you might even find some Dads, or hobbyists), and try to start your own practice? If you cannot find what you need, make it happen. Advertise online, in professional newsletters, etc… I know it can work. I started a group practice like that 3+ years ago in Columbus, Ohio, with three internists. We are very successful, and we average 3 days a week each. We don’t make $200,000 a year, of course. Our practices are full – we turn away new patients daily. And, when one of our doctors recently decided she wanted to leave (to take a hospitalist job that paid more), we had three terrific applicants eager to fill her place!”

Jobsharing offers another approach to balancing family life and medical practice. Getting started on the jobshare route can be hard work but worth the effort. One member says, “I think if you really want a jobshare, you may need to make a ‘proposal’ to your partners/employer yourself. When I was negotiating with my former partners and then when I was looking for part-time or job-share positions, I found precious little opportunity. I wound up making my own proposals to my group and other groups. If you really put it together ahead of time and try to anticipate whatever problems might occur and what objections others might have, you may be able to convince them that your plan may work. I did eventually convince my partners that part-time would be OK.

“Developing a written job share proposal helps, she goes on to say “you can start talking to your own practice, then if that doesn’t work, start contacting other practices. NONE of the practices that I eventually talked to or interviewed with ever *advertised* that they would accept part-time or jobshare (most of their ads/job postings actually stated that part-time was *not* available), but they almost all at least consider it when I actually showed interest in them”.

One member found an ideal jobshare partner, her husband! She works 3 days a week and he works 2 and they split Sundays. They were able to raise their second child at home since someone was always there for him, and are able to pursue interests other than medicine in their time off. They say that jobsharing has really enhanced their lives in every way.

What other careers are available to physicians? Some find work at pharmaceutical companies, others follow their hobbies and passions to start exciting new ventures, and others become stay-at-home MDs. The possibilities seem endless once you have the courage and resources to change.

“I’m starting a whole new career and a lot of people think I’m crazy after med school, residency and building a practice – that I would want to give it all up. I’m a psychiatrist and I work 3 half days per week still but eventually I’ll probably even stop that”, says one member who has started her own children’s music production company.

Another member, AS, recently graduated med school and is already considering a career change. With an 18 month old son and hopes for more children soon, she is considering finding a job in the pharmaceutical industry. AS is currently taking the summer off and selling Tupperware, Avon, Amway, and Cutco to help contribute to the family bills.

Despite surviving phases of burn-out, one member reminds us that, “I love medicine, and I love my specialty,… and I don’t for one second regret going to medical school. Everybody finds their own path and sometimes it winds all around.

* All names have been changed to protect identity. This article was based on discussions in one of the MomMD discussion forums.