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How to Quit Your Clinical Day Job


More and more doctors have decided to make a transition from clinical practice or leave it altogether to pursue opportunities as physician entrepreneurs. However, the transition can be tricky. Follow this guide to avoid common mistakes.

Parachuter, career development, innovation and entrepreneurship

More and more doctors have decided to make a transition from clinical practice or leave it altogether to pursue opportunities as physician entrepreneurs. Most have tested the waters, maybe as a member of an advisory board or as a consultant. Some are co-founders or members of the management team. At some stage, though, given how we all have to prioritize how to spend 24 hours a day, if you intend to further your entrepreneurial ambitions, you will need to flip the switch and either alter or quit clinical activities.

Here are some things that should be on your to-do list before you flip the switch:

1. Make sure you have had “the conversation” with your spouse and family.

2. If you want to continue practicing medicine, explore options with your present partners or employers and explore whether there are part-time, job-sharing, locums, or other flexible positions that are available or that you can create. Don't expect them to be supportive.

3. Make sure you have created the necessary business entities, like an LLC, to keep track of revenue and expenses in your new venture.

4. Renew your medical license as a hedge for another two years.

5. Contact your medical liability carrier to be sure there are not outstanding issues or tail coverage requirements.

6. Make sure you understand how hard it is to re-enter clinical practice once you have quit and burn as few bridges as possible should you decide to re-enter.

7. Reconfigure your budget and spending. Many doctors think they can make as much money as they are making now practicing medicine, if not more, by being entrepreneurs. That might be the case or it might not. Anticipate the worse-case scenario and plan accordingly.

8. Be sure to have Plan B if and why your venture goes south.

9. Pay it forward and help others struggling with the same decision. We can use all the physician entrepreneur mentors and champions we can find. There is no 1-800-Bailout number, so when a colleague asks for help, return the call.

10. Consider taking a leave of absence or sabbatical to test the waters. I did.

When and how to pull the rip cord is an important career development decision for every physician entrepreneur. You want to sure you make a soft landing, so give it the planning and execution it requires.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice