Alternative jobs for physicians without leaving clinical medicine

Sep 17, 2018

Feeling dissatisfied with your clinical job? Transitioning to a nonclinical career is certainly not your only option! In this article we discuss unconventional opportunities to practice clinically. We specifically mention 15 alternative jobs for physicians aside from traditional inpatient and outpatient practice. (And urgent care isn’t even one of them.) 

It is very possible that you can keep seeing patients and actually enjoy it. Many of these options have predictable hours, minimal call, or some other way that they minimize the headaches of ordinary clinical practice.

Consider these alternative jobs for physicians

1Student Health

Most universities have a student health clinic that employs at least one physician (often on a part-time basis). College students tend to be healthy, so this is a good option for those feeling burned out by very sick, complex patients. You’ll likely treat a lot of acute infections, STIs, minor injuries, and stress / anxiety. You might also play a role in the college’s wellness initiatives.

2Long-term Care Medicine

Nursing homes typically have a part-time medical director to treat residents. This physician takes on the challenge of preventing hospitalizations through disease management, as well as determining when inpatient care is necessary. You will be involved in family meetings and care planning as well as following  up on specialist recommendations. Many medical directors are also involved in administrative activities such as establishing clinical policies and procedures.

3Correctional Medicine

Prison and jail medicine is an opportunity to work with a unique population of patients without having to be concerned with billing insurance companies and with Medicare requirements. Most county, state, and federal facilities have a medical director onsite at least part-time, and many prisons and larger jails have multiple medical providers working under the director.

4Outpatient Addiction Medicine

I’m sure you hear about the opioid epidemic in the US on a daily basis. It’s fairly straightforward for physicians to get involved in treating patients with opioid dependence. Clinics focused on this disease are increasing in number and they need doctors. The pay can be good and the work can be very rewarding when you see patients’ lives take a turn for the better. Just be sure to do your due diligence before accepting work with any clinical specializing in addiction (unfortunately, not all of them have our population’s best interest in mind).

5Occupational Medicine

Occ med can be practiced either within a specific company or at an occupational health center that sees patients from multiple companies. Many large organizations – especially those with industrial-type work – have a physician on staff to assist in overseeing workplace hazards and safety as well as to treat employees with complaints, injuries, exposures, and other health problems on the job.

Here’s an example of a recent opportunity in this space that I came across with The Wonderful Company (known for their pistachios):

6Home Visits

Escape the stressful atmosphere of a hospital or medical office by seeing your patients in their homes. This setup allows doctors to better offer their undivided attention to their patient during an encounter. It also provides a break in between appointments while you travel from one location to the next. Some house call positions are available through hospital systems and universities, but there are also companies such as Heal that specialize in home visits.

7Telemedicine

This alternative physician job is certainly one that you already know about, but you may not be aware of all the arrangements and structures that it can take. There are healthcare organizations that hire providers to do telemedicine specifically for their customer base after hours or to limit the number of patients coming to their facilities. And then there are companies (such as Healthtap) that focus solely on telemedicine – either for the general public, for employers, for insurance company beneficiaries, or other subsets of the population. Encounters can be by text, phone, or video, and often with a lot of schedule flexibility.

8Remote Patient Monitoring

This technically is a form of telemedicine. However, if you’re not keen on the idea of direct patient telemedicine consults or treating bread and butter coughs and headaches, remote monitoring is a different format to consider. Like telemedicine, the focus of these positions can be variable, including remote intensive care (e.g. tele-ICUs), intraoperative monitoring, and monitoring of high-risk ambulatory patients.

9International Health

Global medicine opportunities abound for providers with the flexibility to travel and the gumption to get out of their comfort zone. Some international health organizations depend on physicians who volunteer their time, such as Doctors without Borders and Mercy Ships. But there are certainly options for physicians looking to earn a decent living in another country, either through a company that specializes in placement or by actually establishing residence and entering the workforce.

10Cruise Ships and Resorts

In addition to global medicine, clinical practice can focus on travelers here in the US. Large cruise ships have at least one doctor aboard. If you enjoy the challenge of a medical emergency in a limited-resource setting and the potential of a Norwark outbreak, you can also enjoy free housing, food, entertainment, and people-watching while you’re not on duty. Some large land-based resorts also offer onsite medical care as an amenity and employ a full- or part-time physician.

11Med Spas and Cosmetic Medicine

Opening your own med-spa can be lucrative in the right location. There are also plenty of options to work as the medical director for existing clinics. A handful of cosmetically-oriented chains also hire physicians and other practitioners and offer training on the procedures they perform. Vein Clinics of America is an example of this.

12Weight Loss and Lifestyle Medicine

Weight loss clinics are all over the place in our overweight country. And many patients can really use the help of a medically supervised weight loss program. Medical weight loss options typically require a licensed medical provider for clinical decisions and oversight. Lifestyle medicine practices often go beyond weight loss, focusing on overall health and nutrition. Some may offer additional services such as hormone therapy.

13Executive Health

Executive health programs cater to execs with busy, fast-paced lives who are looking for individualized care that fits their schedule and are willing to pay for services beyond what a typical insurance plan would cover. They have a heavy emphasis on preventive medicine. Some executive health centers also partner with companies to offer a comprehensive health program for employees.

14Sports Medicine

Healthcare providers with an interest in sports medicine have a lot more options than a traditional office-based practice. You can partner with a physical therapy or chiropractic center, set up a practice for competitive weightlifters within a gym or fitness center, or be the sideline physician for high school or college sports games.

15Highly Targeted Clinical Practice

Many physicians have established successful practices focusing on a very specific pathology or patient type. For example,

  • An ENT who specializes in treating opera singers with vocal strain
  • An OB/Gyn who only sees patients for elective abortions

If there is a certain medical condition that really fires you up, take that passion to the next level by establishing a practice with a specific focus. With an entrepreneurial mindset, this can be both financially and mentally rewarding.

There are other unique options for doctors to consider

This is not a comprehensive list. It’s meant to get you thinking about alternative jobs for physicians within the clinical realm. There are a lot more options, and surely will be additional possibilities that arise as healthcare delivery and payment continues to evolve.

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