Non-clinical and administrative jobs for physicians in a non-compete

Aug 13, 2018

Q:I completed an internal med residency about 12 years ago. I left clinical practice earlier this year (malignant work environment in that particular practice, but prior to that, no problems anywhere else that I’ve worked). I’m in a non-compete, so unless I want a really long commute, I’m on a sort of “sabbatical” from clinical practice for several more months. I thought I’d miss clinical practice, but I really don’t. Besides utilization review and multi-level-marketing, what other viable non-clinical or nearly-nonclinical jobs should I explore? I want to still make a decent living, even if it’s not quite as much as I made as a hospital-employed internist. Something somewhat steady without me having to reinvent the wheel (i.e., the financial risk and ramp up time of starting a new business is not the best fit for me at this stage of my career). Thoughts on strategies and resources to find jobs that leverage my MD degree and experience without having to start from scratch as if I were a newly graduated college student?

A:You have a lot of options. Utilization review and starting your own business are great avenues for some physicians, but these are by no means the only routes you can go.

Consider a few administrative jobs for physicians

In your case, it sounds like you left your job due to the toxic work environment and culture. It wasn’t that you grew weary of the field of medicine or were disenfranchised by healthcare delivery. Given that, I’d suggest considering a job in healthcare administration.

This type of work includes leadership positions in:

  • Acute care hospitals
  • Hospital networks
  • Managed health care companies (many health insurance companies have medical directors that aren’t heavily involved in utilization management)
  • Outpatient facility networks, such as urgent care centers

Job titles that may be of interest include CMO or associate CMO, corporate medical director, and VP or medical director of various functional areas.

I like the term “nearly-nonclinical jobs” that you used. A lot of physician jobs aren’t 100% clinical or 100% nonclinical. There’s an entire array with every possible ratio of clinical to nonclinical responsibilities. Being open to spending a certain percentage of your time clinically really widens your options.

Healthcare administration jobs for doctors are often nearly-nonclinical

Physicians in administrative positions are often overseeing staff providing clinical services. Spending a portion of their time practicing clinically keeps their clinical skills sharp, strengthens their relationships with other providers in the organization, and allows them to experience challenges and workflows first-hand.

As a leader in a healthcare or payor system, you may be given the option (or sometimes the requirement) of spending a portion of your time seeing patients. This might be a half day per week, a few full days per month, or another arrangement. And this is sometimes negotiable!

Even if you don’t spend time in a clinic or taking hospital shifts, you’ll most likely still encounter patient cases from time to time. You may not lay your own hands on the patient, but you’ll weigh in on the patient care – often with an increased consideration for policies, quality, guidelines, or political issues.

Responsibilities and decision-making for physicians in administration jobs depend on a knowledge of both medicine and the needs and interests of other medical professionals.

A few other options

A leadership position in a healthcare delivery setting seems particularly fitting given your background and situation; however, there certainly are other options. As a hospitalist, did you enjoy working with students and residents? If so, look into teaching opportunities. There’s also a broad range of jobs for physicians in pharmaceutical companies. Medical expertise is needed for drug development, marketing, education, and drug safety marketing, to name a few.

Leveraging your MD degree in a career transition

Leveraging your medical experience and knowledge is straightforward if you pursue healthcare administration. Since you’re likely to be overseeing other providers or clinical staff within the organization, your MD will be valuable in both gaining their respect and in assisting with your everyday decision-making in developing initiatives, reviewing policies, etc.

Other ways to leverage your MD when transitioning your career are:

  • Look specifically for job opportunities that require an MD, rather than those that would accept a PhD, advance-practice nurse, or other degree.
  • Take an inventory of your strengths based on your experience from the past 12 years, and think about how they can be used in another area of work. You probably have more relevant skills for a career change than you initially realize.
  • Make a list of the nonclinical activities that you’ve participated in throughout your career. These could be committee involvement, teaching, patient advocacy efforts, or leading a task force, for example. Having these experiences fresh in your mind will assist you in selecting a nonclinical job and answering interview questions.

Strategies for finding nonclinical jobs

Finally, a few strategies for finding a job – whether it’s in healthcare administration or another industry.

  1. Get inspired by someone who has a career you admire. Consider having coffee (or a beer) with them or, at the least, catching up by email. Chances are they can provide both advice and connections.
  2. Use your network. Browse through your LinkedIn contacts and think about the other connections you’ve made through activities such as involvement in your specialty society. If any of them work for organizations that appeal to you, reach out.
  3. Be serious about job searching online. I’ve heard a lot of people say that landing a job is “all about using your network.” Your network can be an excellent resource (see item #2), but it’s not the be all end all of finding a great job. Online job boards for physicians such as PracticeLink and Doximity routinely have some great opportunities – many of which are positions for physicians in healthcare administration.

Part of the reason you feel you’re struggling to find something might be because you don’t yet have an area to focus on. Once you do, you’ll most likely start making contacts, submitting resumes, or taking other steps that will make you feel as though you’re making progress.

A quick word about the noncompete agreement

If you begin a nonclinical job and love it, that’s wonderful. But don’t try to convince yourself that you don’t miss clinical practice if you actually do miss it. A noncompete agreement preventing you from doing what you enjoy and what you’re good at can be somewhat demeaning like that that.

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