Distinguish Career Regret from Burnout
A minority of physicians regret their career choice. The rate of career regret by medical residents in one study was around 14% (Dyrbye et al., 2018); the contribution of the sometimes exhausting demands of residencies should be considered, however. The regret in this study was significantly associated with burnout symptoms, however, the direction of causality wasn’t addressed. Counseling and talking with mentors can help clarify these issues for the individual.
If you find yourself regretting your career choice, counseling may help you clarify the issue of whether you truly regret your career choice for yourself or if your reaction is to temporary circumstances or circumstances that can be changed. If you do determine that the career path you are on is not a good fit, it can help to learn about your options and take an attitude of taking charge of your career, by focusing on the parts you can control. If you are already employed, are there changes in the workplace or your contract that you could request that would improve how you feel about your work? Are the problems temporary? Also, be sure to notice the good parts of your career. If there are too many problems or a poor fit that you cannot change, and you find it really isn’t the right career for you, consider changing to something else. Do consider it carefully.
Potential Career Pivots: Taking Charge
Potential Pivots to Non-Clinical Careers
The following careers and places to work are some of the non-clinical options available for physicians who would like a change:
- Pharmaceutical companies
- Managed care companies
- Healthcare consulting firms
- Public health, local or federal, e.g. the FDA and CDC.
- Medical writing
- Healthcare tech, software, and app companies may have positions for physicians such as Chief Medical Officer or consultant
Partial Career Pivots
Working only part-time in the clinic or in combination with another type of work may provide enough of a career change for some clinicians dealing with career regret:
- Consider locum tenens practice part-time and spend the rest of your time doing other things you love.
- If working in administration is appealing, consider having a goal of a Medical Director position with some limited part-time clinical work
In reading about career regret, be sure to look at stories of those who regret going into medicine and those who regret leaving it.
Resources on Career Regret
Medical school remorse. Do you have physician career regret? Article in Medical Economics. 2018.
Do you regret going into medicine? A Reddit discussion.
Regret After Leaving a Medical Career Behind Article published in 2019 by a physician. Includes a discussion of early retirement and a forum with comments on the subject. Source: Physician on Fire
Career Regret – Why Did I Go Into Medicine? A Lift blog by Dr. Brad Tanner
Dyrbye LN, Burke SE, Hardeman RR, et al. Association of Clinical Specialty With Symptoms of Burnout and Career Choice Regret Among US Resident Physicians. JAMA. September 18, 2018;320(11):1114-1130. doi:10.1001/jama.2018.12615.
Herrin J, Dyrbye LN. Notice of Retraction and Replacement. Dyrbye et al. Association of Clinical Specialty With Symptoms of Burnout and Career Choice Regret Among US Resident Physicians. JAMA. 2018;320(11):1114-1130. JAMA. 26 2019;321(12):1220-1221. doi:10.1001/jama.2019.0167. PMID: 30912842.Retraction and Replacement.