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    Three steps primary care physicians need to take before switching careers


    With heavy patient loads and uncertainty surrounding health reform, it’s not surprising that many physicians occasionally feel overwhelmed or burnout. But for those looking to make a radical career change away from primary care, Physician Executive Coach Ashley Wendel, MA, CMC, PDC, says they should first consider their options.

    “I think there is so much change and so much squeeze happening in healthcare right now that physicians feel a little bit helpless, and some of them are taking the steps to say, ‘I don’t like where this is going, and I’m going to look to do something else,’” Wendel says.

    But before jumping into a new field, Wendel says physicians need to take three steps:

    1.     Know yourself: Wendel says she has seen some physicians leave the medical field and a year later they are just as unhappy at their new job. “You have to start by looking at what you care about as a human being,” she says. “What do you value? Are those things in alignment with the industry that you see yourself going to work in? What environment do you have to work in to be happy? Also think about what you bring to the table as a professional. Most physicians think about taking care of patients, but they don’t think about how they add value to an organization.”

    2.     Know the market: “You have to spend time doing your homework,” she says. “Talk to people who are in the industry. Start doing research on salary and benefits. Some physicians make a pretty good living, and they think they’re going to replicate that in the corporate world. But that’s not always the case.”

    3.     Know how to network: “Medicine has been a fairly secure profession all of these years, but even that’s changing,” she says. “If you get out into another type of environment there is no job security. Your security is the network of people that you have built relationships with over time. Start reaching out to contacts that you have.”

    Wendel says following these steps will help physicians determine their next course of action, and some may even change their minds about leaving.

    “[These steps] get them thinking about the good things that they can do in medicine,” she says. “It gets them feeling empowered. So many physicians feel right now like nothing is in their hands, so they can go through this personal journey. Sometimes, they can figure out avenues they can take in their clinical world that will help them grow in the way that they want to.”


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      Six and a half years ago, I walked away from a frenetically busy 3,400 client practice in a multi-spoecialty clinic and took a job in public health. For two years, I thought I would die from the bends (and from remorse), but gradually it became clear I could still contribute to the community in a profound and meaningful way without the all-consuming profit driven climate of my former group. It has been a life altering and life extending experience. Sometimes a leap into the unknown helps you find your wings to soar.

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