Non-Clinical Career Transition

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CB is a pediatrician and single mother of a young son.  She has been thinking about searching for a non-clinical career for over a decade.   She completed her pediatric training over ten years ago and went on to work as a general pediatrician and a hospitalist.   Three months ago, she read the book “Physicians in Transition” and got in touch with Michelle Mudge-Riley (President of Physicians Helping Physicians, a physician involved in coaching and mentoring other physicians) for help in finding a non-clinical career.   Michelle and CB worked through phone calls and e-mails for 4 months.  CB was able to leave her job in clinical medicine and now works from home in a full-time non-clinical position as a Physician Advisor at a medical compliance company. 

How long had you wanted a career change and what prevented you from seeking help earlier in your career?

I had wanted to make a career change ever since my 4th year in medical school.  I realized that I loved the basic science and “book” work but did not enjoy clinical medicine at all.  I went to our dean’s office and tried to talk to one of the people who worked there.  I told her that I decided I didn’t want to match (fill out and turn in my match list) and that I was ready to stop and do something else with my life.  I told her I just didn’t like clinical medicine.  That person told me that since I had come this far, I couldn’t stop now and had to move forward.  She said I had already accumulated so much debt that if I didn’t go on to finish residency I wouldn’t have a means to pay it all back.  She also said I was pretty much trained to do just one thing and probably would have a hard time finding work doing something else.  So, I went through the match process and started residency.

During my 2nd year of residency I tried again to figure a way out.  I hired a life coach and that person was not very helpful at all.  She really didn’t understand doctors and medicine or anything I was going through. I got nowhere so I just kept on going, remaining very unhappy with my work and confused about what to do.  I read a couple of books on the subject of changing to non-clinical careers but really had no idea how to go about doing it. 

During my second post residency job I tried to make another change.  I thought maybe the problem wasn’t clinical medicine, but general medicine.  So, I applied and got into a neonatology fellowship.  Halfway through my first year I realized it was a mistake.  I finished the year and got another job as a hospitalist.  Later, I returned to general pediatrics still very unhappy with my career.  I bought my second home, got married and tried to have a child.  I got into a lot of debt trying to pursue fertility treatments.  Then I got divorced and financially truly felt trapped.  Because of this I didn’t attempt to make any changes to try to leave clinical medicine.  At that point I was just treading water trying to keep from sinking further down the hole of debt. 

What was your biggest challenge when contemplating a career change?       

Not knowing the logistics about how to go about making the change.  I had no idea what steps to take to get to a non-clinical career.

What resources did you seek out on your own before contacting Dr. Mudge-Riley?      

Previously I had hired a life coach and that was not helpful.  I read a couple of books on non-clinical careers but didn’t feel I could relate to them.  I scoured the Internet for resources on this issue.  I found some things but I just didn’t know how to get started and to tell you the truth I was afraid to.

How did working with Dr. Mudge-Riley help you?

She helped me see I was not alone or crazy for wanting to leave clinical medicine.  When I have told people that I just don’t like what I do, they look at me like I am crazy.  They just don’t understand.  Michelle really gets it.  Also, Michelle helped me understand that I had many options, gave me concrete steps on how to figure out what my goals and desires were and how to figure out how to turn those into a career.  Michelle helped with my resume, helped me find resources and helped me feel confident when it came to applying to and interviewing for non-clinical jobs. 

What is the best tip you could give other physicians considering a similar career change?

Try not to pretend.  If you’re not happy, you’re not happy.  Realize it and work on making a change.  Hire a coach to help you along the way.  They are invaluable resources and will help you get to where you want to go. 

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