Why are doctors leaving medicine

Why Are Doctors Leaving Medicine? [The Real Truth]

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Becoming a doctor is probably one of the most challenging and notoriously difficult career paths you can embark on. So, why are doctors leaving medicine?

That is a popular medical concept, but is it accurate?

Medicine requires expensive and extensive schooling, followed by intense residencies before you are entirely on your feet. The idea is that all this hard work will undoubtedly pay off financially and in terms of work-life balance and job satisfaction. 

So, why is there waning interest in staying in the medical field when there are supposed immeasurable benefits? Becoming a doctor is not how TV nor dramas make them out to be.

About one in five healthcare workers have left their jobs since the pandemic started. Continue reading to learn more about the reasons why! 

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Why Are Doctors Leaving Medicine?

The idea of quitting medicine can be incredibly distressing to most doctors. Thinking about the amount of effort and time they committed to finish med school and the money and student debt they are still paying — those are enough to make them stay even if they’re completely burned to the ground. 

While there are many reasons to stay, some doctors find even more reasons to leave. Here are the primary reasons why doctors consider leaving the field of medicine:

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Burnout 

Even before the pandemic, the health care environment operates at a highly demanding pace. It is no surprise that doctors experience burnout.

Doctors and physicians have packed work days, time pressures, emotional intensity, and long shifts. At this point, being burned out is almost standard in the medical field. 

Burnout is a form of exhaustion and long-term stress reaction marked by depersonalization, fatigue, and a lack of sense of personal accomplishment. It usually also comes with negativity, downheartedness, and numbness

Given how busy doctors are, looking after their health and well-being often slips to the bottom of their priority list. Also, since medicine is a field known for independence and self-reliance, doctors sometimes feel they cannot show any signs of weakness, especially to their patients

Burnout is inevitable with the lack of mindfulness, bad work culture, and excessive workload. If they’ve had enough, some doctors see this as the point to step out of the field. 

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Stress From The Pandemic

About 60% of doctors are reported to be burned out, as surveyed by the Physicians Foundation. That is a high jump from the 40% in pre-pandemic 2018. 

Critical care and infectious diseases are among the top most burned-out specialties today. It is not surprising that many doctors leave the field. 

COVID-related stressors include difficult conditions, lack of personal protective gear, long hours, and emotional trauma from seeing their patients die. 

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Insufficient Income

The global pandemic resulted in many physicians’ lowered income. About 72% claim their income had dropped in 2020, with about 41% seeing patient volumes drop around 26% or more. 

Even before the pandemic, doctors from less lucrative or low-paying residencies struggled to pay their expenses, such as student loan debt (average is $241,000 with about 25% exceeding $300,000) and malpractice premiums (about $100,000 to $200,000 annually).

Insufficient income pushes some doctors to leave medicine and pursue another career. 

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Long Hours

The average work hours of a doctor is 53.4 hours per week, which is way over the standard hours of other careers in most countries. To make it worse, some have 24/7 or weekend on-call periods.

The nightmarish work hours are enough reason for some doctors to quit and resign. They lack time for their family, and most even have to sacrifice the little time they have for themselves.

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EHR Nightmares

EHRs or Electronic Health Records are the bane of many doctors’ existence, especially older physicians. Many find them hard to use, and some claim that it interferes with the doctor-patient interaction.

It is true, especially if the doctor does not have a scribe and would only input data into a computer or laptop during office hours rather than making eye contact with the patient. Some doctors needed to spend about two hours on EHR record-keeping for every hour in clinical contact with a patient

EHR dissatisfaction is linked to higher burnout scores and outcomes, often leading to doctors quitting clinical practice or leaving medicine altogether. 

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Health Problems

Just because doctors treat patients does not mean they can’t be patients themselves. Doctors have a higher risk of neglecting their health problems than other careers and professions out there

Both acute and chronic problems have a significant impact on a doctor’s workability. Many tend to forget the former since it’s more of a hidden disease, yet it potentially has a profound effect on their ability to perform well at work. 

Many doctors are unaware of the role of Occupational Health Services in supporting them at work while they have a chronic health problem or even returning after recovering from a protracted sickness absence.

Unfortunately, doctors feel they are being forced out of their careers because they have no other option. 

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Desire to Pursue Other Passions

A large chunk of doctors doesn’t consider medicine as their primary passion. A good deal stated they wanted to be something else when they were younger.

Those kinds of dreams don’t just disappear once they have a profession. There is a possibility that doctors are pursuing that career option or hobby on the side because they have medical commitments and responsibilities to accommodate. 

What happens if those passions could become a reliable source of income? Many doctors would grab the chance and pursue those passions and leave medicine.

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Is It Okay To Leave Medicine?

Many doctors personally feel that leaving medicine is a terrible thing. Often, they feel guilt and regret hanging up their stethoscope and lab coat. 

Those negative feelings are normal and justified, though. There is nothing wrong with feeling fear, anxiety, and guilt when the notion of no longer practicing medicine comes to mind. 

If you are struggling with any of the following:

  • Lack of passion or motivation in your work
  • Burnout
  • Desire to pursue another passion
  • Internal dilemma and struggle with your career
  • Lack of sense of accomplishment

Then, it might be time to consider leaving the medical field. 

Despite the taboo and negative connotations, it is okay to leave medicine. Acceptance and guilt might come a bit later, but they will in time.

Try asking yourself if you still like or love your work as a doctor. At the same time, try imagining yourself in another profession. 

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Tips On What To Do If You Want To Quit Medicine

Leaving medicine should not be the end of a fulfilling and satisfying career. It should be the start of a new chapter of your life.

Here are a few tips you can do if you’re considering leaving medicine for good:

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Rest and Find Some Head Space

Give yourself the chance to relax, rest, recharge, and recover.

Resigning and leaving a field you’ve worked so hard and long for will undoubtedly come with a whirlpool of emotions. Before doing anything else, you will need time to sort out all these feelings.

Unemployment, guilt, and regret will undoubtedly play a lot on your mind as you ponder. You will constantly ask yourself whether you’re weak for giving up or actually strong for acknowledging that it’s time to let go. 

There is no right or wrong answer for this. Either way, the decision you make will take enormous courage.

So, take a few steps back and give yourself the chance to see a clearer view of what is happening and what you need to do next

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Build A Healthy Routine

Build the healthy routine you failed to do from the start. It could be various things — exercising, meeting your friends, spending time with family, doing art, soaking up sunshine, and eating healthy.

Treat yourself to a shopping spree or a lavish vacation if you have to. Seek professional help if you need to.

Life can be daunting after making life-changing decisions like this. Remember to always take care of yourself

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Make A Plan

The worst possible mistake you’ll make at this point is leaving without a backup plan ready. Creating a plan will help you feel less anxious about the significant change and give you a sense of security to make that giant, final leap. 

Years spent solely on medicine might make you think you have no other skill. That is not true.

Start by listing interests and hobbies you thought weren’t good enough to make into a career, and ideas that might have seemed too far-fetched before. Anything that feels like flicking a switch.

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Next, list down your accomplishments and things you’ve done. Your voluntary work, employment, competitions, courses, passion projects, and even things you do for fun.

After that, make a list of things you are passionate about. Something that you want to see change or wish to change in the world.

Finally, list down what you wish out of a career and your non-negotiables. Work-life balance, money, experiences you want, the commitments you’re willing to give, jobs you see yourself doing, and the goals you want to pursue.

It doesn’t matter if you spend a month or two putting everything together. What’s important is that you have a plan to support your resignation. 

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Evaluate Your Own Health

The General Medical Council estimates that about 10%-20% of doctors suffer from depression at some stage in their career. Though, many recent studies claim that the number is much higher than this. 

While not every doctor who questions their career has physical or mental health issues, the risk of this happening is relatively high. Changing careers is not something someone thought of on a whim. 

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If anything, it is a bit taboo, especially in medicine. You worked so hard and invested so much that leaving will undoubtedly make you feel like you wasted time and effort

There are also the well-wishes of your loved ones — and their personal and financial investment in your career. Add that to the awful guilt most doctors feel about leaving

Those are enough to put someone in a bad state mentally. Not to mention the physical and emotional exhaustion that usually accompanies work.  It is best to evaluate your health before quitting.  

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Get Some Support

It is ideal for people having a career crisis to have someone who can support and help them. Aside from family and friends, someone specializing in careers, such as a coach or mentor, can help you through this critical transition out of medicine.

Find a career coach or sign up for career coaching lessons. They will guide and help you make the right decision regarding your career, 

Having someone you can discuss your issues and concerns with can bring you empathy and new perspectives. It can help you set new goals and explore more options!  

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Explore Opportunities

Do not limit yourself to the medical field. You can explore opportunities in other areas, too. 

You can start a business, make art, or even create a YouTube channel or Tiktok account. The opportunities are endless as long as you are open to new ideas and experiences.

You may consider Out of Programme Experience (OOPE) if you have a specialty training number. It can be related to research, training, or even something that is entirely non-medical.

Some doctors stepped out of the medical field and into something entirely different, like health policy or management consultancy! Most don’t return to medicine, but some do — and mostly, they return feeling more empowered and spirited

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Network

Doctors, especially junior doctors, are not used to networking. 

Generally, they know where to find people, and jobs in their early years are typically dished out using some weird algorithm that places SJT on par with six years of medical school. You do not need to go out and meet people to find a job.

That is not how networking works outside of medicine. Meeting and knowing people can mean everything if you want to find a job

It’s not about nepotism, either. More so, being in a position where you are presented with more opportunities because you know people

If you want to find a job outside of medicine, you need to network. Go to networking events and career or job fairs. Be curious and maintain an open eye and ear.

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How Do I Resign As A Doctor? 

Resigning is a 3-step processpreparation, resignation, and follow-through. Though, that is an oversimplification of things.

There is more to it than those, but they are the general steps you need to remember. To help, here is a step-by-step guide to help you understand the entire process.

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Step #1 Preparation

Preparing for your resignation is similar to preparing for a job interview. You need to dress appropriately, have the essential documents and paperwork, and meet with your superiors if possible

The dress code is typically different for every hospital and workplace. They may require you to wear your uniform or professionally acceptable non-work clothes.

When resigning, it is only proper to bring a written notice of resignation. You will need to include the day you will be giving notice, how long it is for, and if you are willing to negotiate the timeline

Timing is also essential. It is preferable to resign during the least busy times of the hospital or during the least invasive time if it is always hectic. 

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Step #2 Resignation

Once you have prepared everything, it is a matter of actually resigning. Everyone has seen or read some dramatic tale of workplace exits, but experience shows that they rarely happen in real life.

While entertaining, it is a rude and disruptive way of resigning. Resignation can be a relatively straightforward process

Meet up with your boss and state your intentions. Relay the information from your resignation letter, ask about the next steps you need to take, and thank them for their time.

Expect to receive questions and counteroffers, especially if the hospital is understaffed. It is completely up to you to decide how much information you will divulge, especially regarding your next job or plans. 

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Step #3 Follow-Through

Once you prepared, resigned, and walked out alive, you will need to survive your remaining days at work. Your coworkers might be curious, so they might ask questions. 

Consider these tips about following through with your resignation:

  • Do not discuss your resignation if your superiors ask you not to.
  • Help out until the last minute. 
  • Stay positive, even if you are leaving.

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How Do You Tell A Patient You Are Leaving? 

If you are leaving your medical practice, it is crucial to consider that your patients need ample time to find a new physician. To avoid any allegations of abandonment and ensure continuity of care, give your patients a minimum of 60-90 days’ notice before leaving

You can inform them using the following methods:

  1. Place a visible notice in the waiting area or room.
  2. Discuss it with your patients individually.
  3. Have your staff inform patients calling for appointments about the expected closing date.
  4. Hand them a written notice if possible.
  5. Include an announcement of your closing in your invoices.
  6. Send written letters of notification to your patients. For patients who are “high risk,” consider sending them a letter via certified mail. 

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Additionally, do not accept new patients during this time and consider restricting non-emergency appointments. Do not begin treatments that cannot be accomplished before your closing date of practice.

Finding a new doctor can be stressful and time-consuming for patients. Following the tips above can help make the transition process much smoother. 

Bonus: Want better grades with more free time (and less stress)? Get access to our free 3-step study system here to see what other top students do that you may not be doing!

Leaving medicine is a hard choice to make for doctors. Some might see it as a waste of years and money spent on med school. 

While leaving is a life-altering decision, it can be gratifying and enlightening. There are endless opportunities and options you can explore outside medicine.

You will have to take the giant leap and have faith and trust in yourself that you can do it.  

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