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Leaving Medicine

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 ideaA 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.


Career Options

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
  • consulting


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.

6 replies on “Leaving Medicine”

Why not continue with doing the telemedicine gig for a while. Do you not find it enjoyable or is it not as lucrative as originally thought? It would seem that with telemedicine you can have your cake and eat it to with not being committed to anything yet earning a decent wage.

What telemedicine companies have you worked for and which ones have you like or disliked and why? Has the pay been as expected and also is it sustainable on a regular basis.

I ask as I am in a similar place as you but maybe about 4-5 years behind in both mindset and time. I did family medicine for 3 years after residency and have now been doing urgent care for 2. I am looking a supplementing my income with telemedicine. I have spoken to a few companies and am trying to get credentialed but your quitting has me wondering if this is worth the time and effort.

I appreciate your writings and regularly read your blog and try to get ideas for myself as I am sure many others do.

I would love to get your thoughts.

hey Justin,
Thank you for the comments.
Telemedicine is great overall and I don’t have any complaints. My change of direction is more personal than a reflection of telemedicine as a side-gig or even a full-time gig. Just a couple of months ago I connected with a person who went through the same residency program as myself and she’s now the medical director for one of the telemedicine gigs. She loves it and has been doing it full-time for nearly 5 years.

Doing telemedicine on the side is viable and lucrative enough. You can easily earn $100/hour which is on part with what a general practitioner can earn. There are ways to earn more especially if you can find a busier platform.

I have worked with JustAnswer, Kaiser, American Well and have been credentialed with Doctors on Demand and Teladoc. The last 2 I haven’t yet worked for since I just got back from Spain. The other ones all have been fairly easy to work for.

I think doing telemedicine is a good way to add a little income if you can’t get enough overtime at your main gig. Or if you just want to vary things up a bit so that you don’t feel burnt out.

As for me, I’ve done telemedicine for quite some time now and it still feels much the same as doing medicine in person. It’s the same customer service and following protocol – it no longer resonates with me. As I mentioned, the income is the main driving factor but besides that I think medicine isn’t for me any longer. I’ll have to set a time for myself when I’ll completely stop relying on the income from telemedicine otherwise it’s too cozy to leave.

Nurses earn $150/hour. Urgent Care and telemedicine are just not worth it. Should have done nursing. No liability, higher lifetime earnings, society loves nurses.

I don’t remember how long ago this was but I mentioned in one of my previous posts that being a nurse might actually be a lot simpler. I realize they have their own struggles but in comparison it might be easier. And their pay isn’t too bad.

And just like that he rides off into the sunset…

Take a long break. You may come back later. There are very few careers that will allow you to earn as much in a short amount of time. Life is always full of surprises.

Can I call you professor now?

Taking time off of practicing urgent care is tough because there is so much to know. But definitely a valid point to not sever all ties.
And yes, call me professor! Where are the hot sophomores at?? I’ll be teaching sex ed 1:1.

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