Can I put my medical license on hold?

Mar 22, 2018

Q:I’m wondering about having an inactive medical license. I’m due to have a baby in 6 months and my husband and I are trying to figure out what to do regarding our work and childcare situation. We’re both internists, and are leaning toward me being a stay-at-home mom even after my maternity leave is over, at least for a few years. After that, I’d consider going back to work part-time or full-time (but would most likely go to work for a different organization than my current one).

My question is what to do about my license and certification while I’m not working. How do you put a medical license on hold? Should I keep my medical license active even if I’m not using it? Also wondering about continuing to do CME and other requirements.

A:Unfortunately, most states don’t allow you to simply put your medical license on hold. Some states, such as a California, permit physicians to apply for an inactive medical license.

What it means to have an inactive medical license

With an inactive license, you don’t need to keep up with CME requirements and you don’t need to resubmit a full application when you want to make your license active again. However, you do need to continue to pay fees, and there’s a restriction on how long you can keep the inactive status. It’s an option to look into, depending on what state you live in. In most cases, though, I recommend maintaining your active medical license status.

The main reasons are laid out here:

Keeping your license active

Pros

  • You could start practicing medicine again as soon as you decide to go back to work
  • You can change your mind about practicing any time

Cons

  • Must keep up with CME and other requirements
  • Have to pay usual renewal fees

Changing to inactive status

Pros

  • Fees for inactive status can be cheaper than those for active renewal
  • Don’t need to keep track of CMEs

Cons

  • Reinstating could take some time
  • After a certain period of inactive status, you may be required to reapply
  • There are still fees
  • You’re not immune to board discipline

Keeping up your credentials

Whether to put in the time and money to keep up with CME requirements or maintenance of certification activities for your board depends on what you ultimately decide to do about your medical license. If you decide to let your license lapse, you most likely won’t need to be proactive about doing continuing education. The most important thing to do to play it safe and plan for your future, though, is to find out the details for your state. Determine what the requirements are to make it active again down the road. What is your state’s process for becoming re-licensed? What are the associated fees and requirements? Review your state’s info on this issue online, and contact them if anything is unclear.

If you keep your medical license active, you’ll need to continue to do CME and MOC tasks. This is true even if you aren’t actively practice medicine. Yes, it’s another added expense. This has several potential benefits, though:

  • You’ll keep up-to-date in your field, making you more comfortable when you go back to work.
  • It may be easier to find a job, since an active license makes your credentialing processes easier for employers.
  • You can change your mind at any time.
  • Various part-time and contracting gigs will become an option.

This last point is an important one.

An active medical license gives you options

You mention you might go back to work when your kid is a few years old, but your plan is fluid at this point. Given this, I strongly suggest keeping your options open by retaining active licensure. You may decide you love being a stay-at-home mom, but want to keep your hand in the medical pot while you do it. Or you may come across an opportunity that allows you to earn some extra income while your toddler spends a few hours in preschool a few days per week. There are a few alternatives to taking a traditional part-time or full-time position, that would still let you spend a lot of time with your kid:

  • Taking occasional shifts in a walk-in or urgent care clinic
  • Telemedicine work
  • Moonlighting by doing home visits through a company such as Matrix or Heal
  • Peer reviews for a managed care
  • Physician consulting (may not require an active license, but some clients will prefer this)

Being able to accept opportunities like these if they come along creates a lot of flexibility for you. This is key, since you haven’t yet experienced being a full-time parent and aren’t sure how much you’ll miss practicing medicine.

There are also plentiful freelance opportunities for physicians that don’t involve the actual practice of medicine and, therefore, don’t require an active medicine license. This is another way to keep your medical mind active without officially going back to work, especially if you decide to let your license expire.

Have another question?

1 Comment

  1. Tiffany Locke

    It’s great that this article explains how having an active medical license gives you options, such as full-time or part-time positions. In order to do this, you’d probably want to ensure you figure out what license you require for the medical work you do and how often it needs to be renewed. When doing this, it could help to talk to a professional that offers renewals so that you can discuss your situation and ask questions in order to make sure you have all the information you need.

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