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Plan B Revolving Doctors


A lot of people think that doctors who don't see patients aren't 'real' doctors, including several physician peers. It's not true. Still, switching careers isn't easy.

Most people want to be doctors so they can take care of patients. Not so much any more. Many doctors, for numerous reasons, are jumping ship and doing Plan B, i.e pursuing non-clinical alternatives, like writing novels or investing in real estate, or, more commonly, following alternative clinical pathways, where they get to apply their clinical expertise and experience in ways other than seeing 20 patients a day.

Following Plan B involves 3 basic steps:

1. Getting your head screwed on about the decision to leave clinical medicine.The most difficult of the 3, it is absolutely essential that you "divorce the corporation" and deal with the emotional baggage that goes with leaving your doctor persona, the clinical culture, and all that goes with it, including the raised eyebrows and disappointed family members and parents. In addition, the financial opportunity and switching costs are high and depend on strong internal motivation to go after the next brass ring.

2. Becoming aware of alternative clinical career options. There are many, but most doctors are unaware of them, don't believe they are the right fit, don't beleive have the knowledge, skills or abilities to be successful. They need role models and success stories to be convinced.

3. A plan to execute the next steps. Creating a career-development ladder is a lot like seeing yourself as a personal start up. You'll need to develop the right product-market mix and deal with all the business model and validation issues that Newco's have to face.

Behavior change models typically follow a pattern of unfreezing old behaviors, changing to new behaviors, and refreezing the new behaviors or habits to prevent relapse. Changing to Plan B is not different.

However, the likelihood that a physician entrepreneur will fail is higher than the likelihood they will succeed. That reality means that you might be considering re-entering medicine sometime in the future. There are many reasons why:

1. You found out the grass is not greener.

2 You realized you missed it more than you thought you would.

3. You can get a job and a paycheck.

4. You didn't know what you didn't know when you left.

5. You are getting flack from your spouse or family.

6. You don't have Plan B and are unlikely to have one.

7. Things have changed and now you can work part-time and in many roles, like teledoc, that didn't exist when you left.

8. You fixed what was making you so unhappy that had nothing to do with medicine when you left in the first place. You were a grumpy person, not a grumpy doctor

9. Somebody thinks the lessions you learned as a failed entrepreneur might be valuable to them.

10. You think you can go home again.

Re-entering clinical practice after even a short time can be difficult if not impossible, despite the need for doctors.

One study found that among 2010 law school graduates, 20% hold jobs that don’t require a law degree. We may be seeing the same in medicine as medical school graduates increasingly pursue non-clinical careers.

A lot of people think that doctors who don't see patients aren't "real" doctors, including several physician peers. It's not true. A doctor who creates a biotech company is just as real as someone who treats your high blood pressure or takes out your spleen. The fact is, some may have done both at some time in their careers.

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Victor J. Dzau, MD, gives expert advice
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