Provider Spotlight: Dr. Mandel, ER Maverick & Locum Tenens Physician

Dr. Ken’s Corner: Physician Burnout: Tired of Being a Doctor?

What do Tess Gerritsen, Robin Cook, and Michael Palmer have in common? Known for their best-selling medical suspense novels, they are all physicians. If attendance at writing workshops is an indication, a growing number of doctors would like to follow in their footsteps.

“Physicians are generally well-suited to almost anything they want,” says Dr. Heather Fork, an Austin, Texas-based career coach. “If they’ve made it far enough to become a physician, it means they’re intelligent, dedicated, hardworking, and able to work under stress and pressure. These are qualities that can be applied to any career.”

Dr. Fork speaks from experience. After nine years as a dermatologist, she decided to sell her practice. “I wasn’t enjoying dermatology as much as I thought I would.” She was experiencing physician burnout. After some soul-searching, she completed an accredited coach-training program and then established her coaching practice called Doctor’s Crossing. Dr. Fork was interviewed by Medscape for one of the “top ten” articles read by physicians in 2012: Tired of Being a Doctor? Choices for Opting Out of Medicine. February, 2012.

The Medscape article cites a 2010 survey of 2400 practicing physicians: 24% said they plan to quit clinical practice in one to three years. Of this group, half said they plan to leave healthcare entirely, and the other half plan a nonclinical but healthcare-connected career. No doubt, some will be taking on leadership roles in hospitals or other clinical settings. Over the past ten years, this career option has become increasingly popular as hospitals and health systems have expressed growing interest in hiring physicians for these jobs (American College of Physician Executives).

“A lot of doctors come to me confused and unhappy, and they aren’t sure what they could or should do,” says Dr. Fork. Although they often shortchange themselves, “the door is wide open,” she adds. [A personal note: I’m concerned that some physicians wanting to opt out of clinical practice will act impulsively, “jumping ship” without a life preserver. KT]

Dr. Fork’s advice in the Medscape article: “People need to have a firm grasp of bread-and-butter issues: How long can I afford not to work? Do my spouse and family support my decision? How much do I need to earn? But they also need to have a firm grasp of their skills and interest.”

Dr. Ken Teufel
Ken Teufel is the Medical Director for Interim Physicians