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A Rational Approach to Career Change

by Celia Paul

Medicine may have been a rewarding career for you, but you have begun to feel that it is time to move on. But what, you think, will replace your medical career? To properly focus on which nonclinical career might work for you, several steps are critical:

Examine your priorities

What do you want from life? Is it more leisure time, including more control over your schedule? Do you want opportunities to develop an area that you now enjoy as an avocation? Are you willing to give up other activities and advantages to gain what you want? For example, are you interested in working regular hours even if it means sacrificing high income? Are you willing to go back to school to master a specific new area that interests you?

Assess your skills

There are many skills that you have developed as a doctor that can be applied in other fields -- managing, persuading, thinking on your feet, research, quick decision making and problem solving, etc. They can be utilized in careers as diverse as advertising and investment banking. The question becomes one of focusing on your desires- that is, what skills do you now possess that you enjoy using most? By evaluating your strengths carefully, you will be able to build on your past success to create a new foundation.

Let us look at some of the areas that might interest you. The actual choices are up to you, but this information can stimulate your thinking about options.

Becoming an Entrepreneur

Doctors have many of the skills necessary to become successful entrepreneurs. They know how to organize their time and to determine priorities. They learn new skills quickly, think independently, and follow through on plans. They also know how to promote -- or even sell -- which they use with patients to convince them to follow a course of treatment, although their professionalism often prevents them from accepting their selling abilities.

A wide variety of businesses interest doctors. Sometimes the choice is based on the individual's medical background. However, a business can also be based on a side interest, such as following the stock market, or a creative field, such as an art dealership.

Hospital Administration/Private Health Care Administration

If you have strong organizational skills and an interest in staying closer to medicine, becoming a hospital administrator may be an attractive new career. Opportunities in private health care use these skills as well as entrepreneurial talents, because many health care companies are starting to grow rapidly as interest in these types of services expands.

A Corporate Position

Corporations, particularly those in the pharmaceutical and medical equipment areas, present opportunities for doctors interested in working within a more structured setting. However, some doctors become concerned about the loss of the autonomy that they have become accustomed to in their private practices. Corporate positions are salaried and include direct practice, such as in corporate medical departments, as well as nonclinical work, such as research and marketing.


If you would like to maintain autonomy, consulting may answer your needs. Consulting can cover a wide variety of opportunities. Media companies hire doctors to work on the development of medical exhibitions. Law firms hire medical consultants to advise on personal injury and liability cases. Insurance companies use doctors for medical assessments, although this is a role increasingly filled by nurses. In addition to your knowledge of medicine, your analytical abilities and communication skills enable you to make a contribution in these fields. You can provide consultation services independently or create your own business with a team of diverse colleagues.

A Writing Job

If your self-examination leads you to the conclusion that writing is one of your strongest and most enjoyable skills, you should consider careers with a heavy emphasis on written communication. A growing field is medical public relations. Your responsibility is to obtain publicity for the client or company you are representing, which could be a private health care program, a medical product, or a new drug. Some doctors also work for advertising agencies writing copy that appeals to the medical market.

Another writing career that interests some doctors is medical publishing for trade journals, books, and newsletters. Your investigative skills, as well as written communication, are utilized extensively here. However, opportunities in journalism are much more limited than opportunities in public relations, especially in big cities.

Whatever you do, think of the process of career change as an exciting opportunity to discover who you are and how you can fulfill your dreams. Taking a career risk can result in enhanced self-esteem and greater career satisfaction.

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