A recent dialog on the LinkedIn SEAK Non-Clinical Careers Group page was sparked by this (all names removed):
I have retired from medicine after 42 years. I attended SEAK in Chicago and it only served to highlight my dissatisfaction with medicine as a career. I am now a bartender. I am planning to do private duty bartending and uniformed chauffeuring.I think medical care has lost its charm. I started out in trauma and I couldn’t get enough of it. I delivered babies, did c-sections and appy’s, set bones. It was a gas. But the greed of other doctors for money and time off to the detriment of other doctors like me, and the profound unhappiness of my co-workers, doctors, nurses, and secretaries, reminded me there was more to life than medical practice. I am writing a murder mystery which may be so bad I may have to publish it myself. Ask me if I care.
The largely congratulatory and sympathetic responses includes this sampling of (edited) remarks:
Fantastic! Bartending sounds like a great way to stay connected with people. I am leaving my general surgery practice to engage in a 1 year fellowship developing medical devices. I have no definite plans to return to clinical practice but will keep my license. Surgery is a wonderful profession but the headaches and call have outweighed the joys for me and my family.
Congratulations – I wish you the best. I am working on closing my Surgery Practice. I am currently starting an internet business, writing books, and in the future hope to create a wellness center. The practice of Medicine ran its toll for me after 11 years long hours, high malpractice, poor insurance payments, and heavy call schedules…., 8 years of this time was done without single day off! I woke up one day unhappy with the realization I always discouraged my patients against working themselves into an early grave yet I was doing just that. Anyway, I have finally slowed down enough to enjoy a sunrise…
I retired 6 years ago after 29 years in practice, tired of dealing with insurance companies. Today I play golf and spend time helping run our condo as a member of the board and although I keep a licence active and attend CME courses, have no intension of returning to practice.
I left orthopaedic surgery residency for same reasons. My unhappiness was profound and deep, and I just didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. I went to industry for 9 years and then began working on creating my own remote mechanism for physicians and ancillary healthcare providers to provide and promote custom wellness programs for their patients, but done so remotely with programming (not face to face).
I am sorta out of medicine. 32 year navy career, 20 of which were in medicine in a variety of fields. Board Certified ER and loved the trauma center high acuity practice, but most ERs are glorified urgent care sites. I have also become philosophically against the way we practice medicine in the US (and I have done more than my fair share of international work). The entire approach to medicine needs to be changed. People go to physicians for everything, and it is breaking the bank. WRT practice, the paperwork, hours, all the non-clinical stuff, regulations,clinical practice guidelines, etc. Ughh! I now work in disaster medicine and counter terrorism medicine (yes there is such a thing). Better work hours, almost as good WRT remuneration, and I am a lot less crabby than I used to be. (PK comment – I’m not sure what WRT stands for)
And it seems, judging by the comments pouring in, that the LinkedIn conversation is not yet done!
So here we have physicians retiring early, leaving incomplete residency programs, practices closing — and the pervasive thread of deep professional dissatisfaction and cynicism.
I recognize that this is a self-selected group, defined by a search for an alterative non-clinical career, but these posts are very much in line with the larger conversations happening elsewhere online.
A recent study reported in JAMA in May 2011 (whole article here) cites physician burnout estimated to be occurring in 30-40% of US physicians.
Physicians, younger and older, are leaving medical practice to join organizations in non-clinical roles, start businesses of their own, write books, retire sooner than planned, volunteer here and abroad, teach high school.
What does this defection say about our future prospects for a high-functioning, reformed and revamped healthcare system?
Today, I feel gloomy.
Oh, and BTW, cheers, to you, Dr X. May you and Mike Flaherty have fun in your new jobs!