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.