Leaving Clinical Medicine- An Interview

Today we have an anonymous guest post from a doctor who has left clinical practice. An emergency doctor by training, he practiced for more than a few years and then decided to give it a go in a non-clinical role. For anyone who imagines leaving clinical work one day, I thought it would be interesting to hear someone’s perspective of how they got there. If you know anyone else who has also taken a less traditional doctor's path, please let me know. I would love to interview them.

With no further ado, take it away…Oh, and we have no financial relationships. 

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your former career as a clinical physician?

First, let me thank you for the opportunity to speak to your audience.  I am an avid reader of your blog and appreciate your many contributions.  Thank you again.

I trained in emergency medicine and practiced for almost 20 years at the bedside.  Working in several different healthcare systems (27 practices across 7 states), I held many different roles as a provider.   

I enjoyed my clinical practice, but always enjoyed my personal time and am now married with 2 young boys.

Like most emergency physicians, my work schedule was erratic and favored a strong on/off career type.  We all shared the holidays myself included.  This was not so much of a problem for me until my wife, and I started to have children.

Early in my clinical career, I was able to take advantage of the ER schedule.  I traveled lots and accumulated several lifetime memories.  But now, with my focus on family, the night shifts and the missed holidays seemed increasingly grueling. 

It was about 18 months ago when I permanently left the bedside.

Ed. The Er schedule is attractive. Being able to lump together shifts so that you have 2 or 3 weeks off is ideal for traveling. The downsides are the nights and weekends; oh wait, Cardiology has that also. 

What was it that got you thinking about doing something else?

Besides the lifestyle and my focus on my family, I think I was also burned out intellectually.  I witnessed first-hand many of the medicine changes as more and more health systems accumulate solo/group practices and regionalized their “care-networks.”  I saw the profound impact this was having on bedside practice.

Following this trend and interested in seeking other long-term opportunities, I pursued other medical roads. 

At one time or another during my career, I had dabbled in all different roles and medical businesses.  Working as a CMO of a startup housecall business or as an international telemedicine consultant.  I even worked on Hurricane Relief Efforts as an emergency physician.  I was always interested in exploring the many different aspects of medicine and how it’s practiced.

Still, I never seriously looked at non-clinical jobs before this time, but I was absolutely amazed at what’s available once I started looking. 

As almost a coincidence, at about the same time, I started looking for a non-clinical career, a medical malpractice attorney also approached me to assist him with his case.

I was honest about my experience with him, but I was also convinced that I would answer his questions and “manage the medicine,” as he likes to call it.

And that’s what I ended up doing!  He would ask me medical questions to support his theories or ask me to write a medical brief and so forth.  It was quite an experience, and I enjoyed every minute.

I decided to pursue a career as a medical, legal consultant. 

Ed. Quite the career. I imagine the Hurricane Relief Effort gig may have been exciting. Seeing the large scale organizing to provide care for people under sudden and horrendous circumstances is an experience. 

On the other hand, working as a house call doctor seems attractive. I imagine it is exactly as portrayed on Royal Pains. 

What do you do now? Including what your typical day looks like.

Today I own and operate my own Medical Legal Business firm.  I consult with attorneys and help with the medical aspects of their cases.

Most of my clients are Personal Injury or Worker’s Compensation lawyers.  I also work with Medical Malpractice and even some Real Estate attorneys, believe it or not.

I have one employee who assists me with some of the administrative duties. Starting the business from the ground up, I continue to develop it.  As I mentioned, I wanted to keep writing and reviewing and researching, and learning. 

My weekly schedule consists of a combination of 3 specific roles, as author Michael Gerger states in his book, The E-myth:  the technician, the manager, and the entrepreneur, all covering the many aspects required for a successful small business.  (If you click on the link and buy the book, I make some bling).

Technician

Depending on my caseload, I spend a portion of my work as a consultant reviewing and responding to medical questions regarding the cases I received.  This type of work is rewarding.  I get a chance to speak with the affected patients and connect the problem to a person with a family and a specific problem.  I also enjoy research and learning about current trends in medicine.  It is exciting to me intellectually.

Manager

I also divide some time in my week to manage responsibilities such as the bookkeeping, administrative, and legal/compliance aspects of my business.  This has been a challenging aspect for me. I can see why so many people reach out for assistance.  I can appreciate why there is such a big market for consultants who can help do this or that for you to help you get off the ground. 

There is an endless amount to learn; it can be overwhelming if you have no experience.  A good mentor will help you with your ideas and keep you out of the weeds.  Just start basic and build continuously as you get more time and gain experience. 

Entrepreneur

The third and final aspect of your business is the entrepreneur or visionary role.  This is where I plan for the future with my networking, marketing, and business development.  I look to stay current with trends in my field and understand what is happening around the issues I consult.

My work is a combination of these three each week.  The flexibility is amazing, but it does require discipline too.  I work from a home office but treat it as almost another location.  I let my family know that I am working and close the door with few interruptions.  I “go to work” each day. 

Ed. Honestly, this seems like way more work than being a clinical physician. Like Sir Richard Branson said, “Entrepreneurs are the crazy people who work 100 hours a week, so they don't have to work 40 hours for someone else.”  But being your own boss is truly a beautiful thing. In the end, you are responsible for the good and the bad. 

How did you transition into your current career?

Some physicians are fortunate and develop relationships in practice and can transition away from the bedside easily.  I can think of an MD/Ph.D who began helping Ely Lilly with clinical trials and then, before long, had signed on full-time.  It looked like a natural progression for her and her abilities, but this is not the norm.

For most physicians, we don’t have a clear pathway to a new career.  And that’s ok.  I would recommend you spend some time on two important aspects which I think determine your long-term success.

Step one: What is it that drives you beyond clinical work

First, what you want to do? For me, I enjoy writing and reviewing charts and working with attorneys coordinating the medical details.  I would ask what is it about this job that attracts you and says, “I want to do that every day.”  And this may take some time to explore and think about what you want out of a successful career transition.

Step two: Researching and networking

Second, I would recommend spending some serious time researching online and talking to people in your field of interest. For instance, I just did a quick search for [nonclinical careers for physicians] and found the following results:

  • Pharmaceuticals (safety, development, regulatory, marketing, sales)
  • Medical Devices (safety, development, regulatory, marketing, sales)
  • Biotechnology
  • Insurance (health, disability, life)
  • Medical Administration
  • Physician Recruiter
  • Career Coach
  • Physician Advisor
  • Government (Federal, State, Local)
  • Occupational Health
  • Education
  • Communications
  • Marketing
  • Informatics (IT)
  • Consulting
  • Media
  • Writing

There are really a ton of non-clinical job opportunities out there for physicians.  (You have to put in the work.)  And that’s probably the biggest hurdle for most physician’s transitioning careers.  But it doesn’t have to be.  Let me explain.

Accumulate knowledge

I would begin by accumulating as much knowledge about the subject as you can.  For instance, if you always wanted to do some medical corresponding, I would look to network with anyone involved in this area, read, volunteer, introduce and welcome partnerships with those businesses involved in this type of work.  Learn from the giants in the field about what and how they accomplished what they did.

Personally, I have attended writing courses, speaking courses, publishing conferences.  I’ve taken business classes outside of a university and hired a handful of coaches along the way.  I’ve read a great number of books in and around sound business practices and wealth building.  I’ve failed and made a ton of mistakes along the way.  And I’ve gained some invaluable knowledge and experience, which serves me well today.

I would also hire and work closely with a physician business coach.  Although you could find all the information yourself and do it yourself, I think the insight you get from a good coach is invaluable.  The unique ability to steer you in the right direction and help you avoid unnecessary problems saves you countless hours and improves your chances of success.

I’ve also learned to work with my coaches and know what to ask of them. I’ve even started to help coach some physician colleagues.

The concerns

And in my experience, I’ve talked with many physicians who have tried to transition to a non-clinical career, and there are 3 recurring and common concerns:

  1. Money
  2. Experience
  3. Time

I’ve found the best way to navigate these hurdles and lowers your risk of failure is to start a side business while you are still in your current position.

This is more work… absolutely.  But you gain invaluable experience and still have room for mistakes without worrying about your current expenses. 

This transition is temporary, and a side business strategy can protect inexperienced professionals from serious and permanent losses.

Please remember to reach out and ask for help.  Your medical career was built over many years.  You can make this transition, too, if you have the right help and the right resources.

Good Luck!  And here’s to a successful transition to your nonclinical career!

p.s. If you get stuck or still don’t know where to start, you are welcome to contact me through DadsDollarsDebts. 

Ed. What a great interview. I definitely appreciate our guest doctor for taking the time to answer some of my questions. I hope his experience will be a guide for anyone looking to branch out from clinical medicine. It may be a lot of work and risk, but the rewards can be life-changing.

Let us know your thoughts below and if you have any experience with non-clinical doctoring. 

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I am Eiman Jahangir and I am a dad, husband, and cardiologist. I grew up in the South, trained in the Northeast, moved out West, and now am happily back home in the South. My wife and I have seen our fair share of ups and downs, from the pain of dealing with infertility and losing everything in a matter of hours in the Tubb’s  Wildfire, to the joys of having our son and finally finding a medical practice that is right for me. It hasn’t always been easy, but I am grateful and continue to move forward in positive steps.

I write to help people looking to improve their lives. I have written my thoughts and experiences on a wide arrange of topics from parenting to finances to mindfulness. While some of my posts are more useful for doctors and other high earners, most are for everyone.