Those of us who have had a lot of jobs in our lifetime know that certain positions sound prestigious but actually come with less pay and more work. Think assistant manager and medical director. A regional medical director role, on the other hand, is the first step above a medical director position where you can take on a mostly non-clinical role with a decent pay.
Towards the end of this post I’ll discuss my new regional medical director role in a medical startup.
More healthcare groups are advertising these medical director roles where you are essentially seeing patients 30 hours a week and supposedly using the other 10 hours to do administrative work.
The reality is that most medical director roles aren’t desirable positions. Either a private medical group wants to place all the malpractice risk on you or a larger medical group wants to pay you the same amount to do even more work.
A Medical Director Role
There are advantages to taking on a medical director role. First, you’ll get an inside look at how a medical group is run. Next, you’ll pad your resume with a leadership experience.
As a medical director you would have a supervisory role and be in charge of hiring/firing associates. If you’re strategic then you’ll make more friends than enemies.
It can be a fun position to try out if you are already familiar with the medical group and like your co-workers. But starting a medical director role in a completely new clinic/hospital might be overwhelming.
A medical director role in a private medical group can be a lot more favorable than doing it for a large medical group. In the former you’ll have more responsibilities but a lot fewer moving parts.
You’ll be 1:1 with your nurse manager and you’ll have more authority as well; the kind of authority where you feel that things can get done with minimal bureaucracy.
You’ll likely have more administration time and fill in clinically when associates call out sick or if the clinic is short-staffed for other reasons.
Shady Private Medical Groups
Be wary of private medical groups which are eager to hire you to be their medical director for one of their offices. They might advertise to you that you’ll barely have to see any patients and can work part-time.
The problem is that you’ll have your name on every document for that clinic and be responsible for all the affiliate clinicians. They are essentially placing all the malpractice risk on you and paying you a small salary for that.
Larger Health Groups
I had a medical director role for a little over a year and don’t think I did the best job at it. I was more focused on results than the process. That caused more friction than necessary.
When you take on the medical director role for a larger medical group it’s better to build camaraderie with colleagues and other individuals in management. It’s expected that you’ll get less done but at least you are providing the necessary supervisory role.
For better or worse, results aren’t really all that scrutinized. It’s a matter of keeping things together after a major change is rolled out throughout the medical group.
On an individual level you might feel really useless in that role. However, trying to bulldoze your way through problems will just cause you to burn out and make enemies in the process.
The best thing to do in such a role is to learn leadership skills, meet other great leaders, and to pad your resume. And who knows, you might love the role and be the perfect candidate for moving further up the ranks.
Regional Medical Director
If you’ve worked at McDonald’s then you know that being an associate manager sucks in every which way. It’s after you get to the manager position when your pay reflects the extra responsibility and time that you’re putting in.
A regional medical director role is where you can actually focus more on the administrative side and either have a small or no clinical role at all.
In the regional medical director role you would be responsible for how the clinics in your region run. You would be training new-hire associates and report directly to the Chief Medical Officer.
The big advantage of the regional medical director role is that you’d have autonomy to enact an actual vision for how the clinics should run. And more importantly, you’d have medical directors and managers under you who can take care of the day-to-day tasks.
My New Regional Medical Director Role
A few months ago when I was living in Barcelona I connected with a medical group on the east coast which was doing some machine-learning work with mental health patients.
They were using artificial intelligence to identify which patients would benefit from which specific medications or behavioral therapy. They were able to backtest the results and found better patient reported outcomes from applying their algorithms.
The CMO contacted me again recently and informed me that they landed a contract on the west coast. He felt I was the right candidate for the regional medical director role to expand the telemedicine platform in Oregon and California.
We spent some time on the phone discussing the responsibilities of the role, the pay, and the timelines. It all sounded favorable and I accepted the regional medical director role.
I can’t reveal their name yet until I sign a few more documents with them. But I will report back on this new regional medical director role in the coming months for anyone interested in such non-clinical roles.
I will supervise affiliate clinicians and hire physicians in my region. I’ll run the QA committee and create reports for the investors in the company to help design a custom telemedicine platform.
Why I Took The Job
I am currently dealing with a medical board investigation. The last thing I’m interested in doing is anything clinical. The opportunity to do less clinical work and more administrative work appeals to me.
If I get the opportunity to work more on the telemedicine implementation side then I’ll jump on that.
I also liked the CMO. His vision seems focused on all the right things. He doesn’t have much of an ego and I think we could work well together. I would be reporting directly to him so he seems like a good boss to have.
This company wants to feel out how I’ll perform in the regional medical director role and hired me as an independent contractor at first. This happens to be a much more favorable arrangement for me as well.
I’ll get paid $125/hour for any work that I do and I’ll be responsible for reporting my own hours every 2 weeks.
After a few months we’ll renegotiate and if I would like to take a bigger role then we’ll sign a contract for a full-time position.
Landing A Non-Clinical Role
In order to land a non-clinical role it’s helpful to wet your whistle on a few non-clinical projects. I have written about how to get started in healthcare consulting. If you’re willing to do the first few for free then it’s quite likely that your reputation will help you land some paid gigs.
If you’re savvy with LinkedIn then you can advertise your desires for such a non-clinical role or a consulting role. Recruiters may contact you either for resources or to offer you such jobs.
Non-clinical roles in startup companies can be a lot more favorable because of the flexibility. The downside with such non-clinical roles is that the pay won’t be very high. This will be my second startup and I was incredibly pleased with my experience with Remedy.
If you enjoy innovative medical tech conferences then I would highly recommend hanging out outside the conference rooms. You’ll run into many entrepreneurs who can guide you in the right direction.
You’re Not Trying To Escape Medicine
When you go after a non-clinical role there can be a stigma that you’re trying to escape medicine. This is silly of course. You’ll probably get a higher dose of medicine in a non-clinical role than when you’re seeing patients.
It’s good to have an answer for this topic because you will be asked as to why you’re interested in such a position. And if you want to do less clinical medicine then it’s important to explain why.
It seems that the right answer is to point out to the interviewer that you have excelled at the clinical side and would like to have a bigger impact on medicine than just seeing patients. And that you aren’t sure whether you want to return to clinical medicine in the future but that you are open to it.