I decided sometime in 2012 that I would pursue a second career after becoming financially independent. Leaving medicine was motivated by the lack of a challenge it presented after a decade of practicing it. Productivity wasn’t a concern since I had learned that one can be productive outside of full-time work.
2014 was a very lucrative year when I clocked my highest earning-year. But if medicine was going to continue being such a dredge then I didn’t want to continue with it. I set out to make some changes to my practice but nothing really changed my feelings towards the career.
I changed my job to a different medical group, in a different city.
I took on admin work to break things up.
I went part-time.
I went per diem.
I switched to only doing telemedicine.
In the end, the daily challenges that a career in medicine poses weren’t worth battling any longer and.
What I Love About Medicine
Up until a few months ago I still loved the problem-solving side of medicine. I’m not sure that’s true anymore. The curiosity has faded quite a bit though the science of the human body is still fascinating.
Up until a couple of years ago the prestige was really important to me. That, too, has faded to the background of doing rectals and diabetic foot exams. The only thing that still matters to me, for better or worse, is that I was able to make it through the ups and downs of becoming a doctor.
I guess I love the self-confidence I got from medicine and the ability to do critical thinking.
I also love the human connection you get to enjoy when addressing a patient’s health concerns. That’s a very special feeling. Granted, it’s a bit narcissistic. But fuck it, I still love it.
Leaving Medicine Behind
It’s not easy leaving the comfort and security of one career behind for the promise of another. Even worse when you don’t know what the next career will be.
I have realized that the only way I can really move on to another endeavor is to pull the plug on my medical career. I tried leaving medicine cold-turkey August 2016 and that was a bad idea. A slower transition suited me more.
Having worked my way down from full-time to part-time, to per diem, to telemedicine, to getting investigated by my medical group and medical board has been a worthwhile process.
But because I can still earn some income through my telemedicine work, it will be hard to get to the next step unless I go cold-turkey. This would involve giving up my medical license so that I can no longer earn money through clinical work.
Wasting A Skill
I hear this argument the most. It’s a waste to have spent so many years studying and practicing medicine to just leave it prematurely. The earlier you decide to leave it, the more of a waste it is.
But why is 30 years the supposed appropriate amount of time to spend working medicine before it’s okay to retire? It seems arbitrary to elect 3 decades as a long enough time-commitment but poo poo 10 years.
The first decade is often when a healthcare professional gets settled into their career. They are still in the debt accumulation phase but are slowly transitioning to a stable lifestyle.
The second decade is when the retirement account exceeds the debt balance. And by the 3rd decade the healthcare professional enjoys some of the highest income which makes leaving medicine near impossible.
Motivation To Stay In Medicine
In my opinion it’s okay to be motivated by money when it comes to practicing medicine. I don’t view medicine as a higher calling. We are professionals in a niche field. We are highly specialized in our training. We are held liable for negligent as well as unintentional mistakes by our professional boards.
I like the income from medicine because it allows me to spend freely without strict budgeting. Frankly, that’s one of the strongest factors that has kept me from pursuing alternate career options.
I would prefer if my motivation was fueled by something other than an income. After all, that’s the whole reason why I’m leaving medicine.
Replacing The Income
I would need about $3k/month of income to feel comfortable with my current lifestyle. I would love to earn that by just doing part-time work but that means earning $50/hour.
There are few jobs which allow that kind of income without putting in your dues. Independent gigs such as consulting and sales could probably earn that kind of income.
For a household which requires a much higher income to keep the lights on, the best option would be to cut back on medicine as much as possible in order to dedicate the extra time to the new career.
When money is tight, it’s better to take a while longer and do a smooth transition from one career to the next. This will definitely make leaving medicine harder but it’s less stressful.
The Alternate Career Criteria
I would love to find another career for which I have developed a passion. That idea is as romantic to me as a couple making out with the sun setting behind them on Valentine’s day. I was in love with medicine back in the day and also crushed hard on automotive stuff. The problem with the automotive thing is that it doesn’t satisfy my personal criteria for an encore career.
I could easily see myself going all out with something that I’m really in love with. I could spend 10 hours a day and it wouldn’t bother me. It’s hard wrapping my mind around that because it’s been so long ago when I felt that way.
I don’t know why but I’ve had a mental block when it comes to writing this section. I’ve had this post sitting in my draft folder for a week because I just can’t come up with actual careers that I’d want to pursue after leaving medicine.
Fortunately, at the same time I was listening to a couple of books which really helped me in this regard. The first book is Grit: Angela Duckworth and the other Thank You For Being Late: Thomas Friedman.
I have realized that it’s not a matter of selecting a new career and just stepping into it. I will need to try out several different paths simultaneously and really dedicate myself to the work and see which one resonates with me.
I have identified the following paths to try out after leaving medicine:
- writing (copywriting, editing, author)
- teaching (professor, nutritionist)
- general contracting
Part-Time or Full-Time
For the past few years I assumed that the full-time versus part-time discussion was settled. I have since realized that my mindset has been flawed.
When you’re doing the work you love, you don’t care how much time you’re dedicating to it. If I enjoy the task then both the income and time commitment are irrelevant.
In a way this has relieved a lot of pressure that I had placed on myself when it comes to leaving medicine. I created all these criteria for myself which are now irrelevant. Being able to focus on doing something that’s meaningful, sustainable, enjoyable, and profitable are highest on my priority list.