Thinking About New Ways to Practice

February 1, 2008

I have been unable to practice for several years due to a rare disease. My health is stabilized to the point where I might work 20 to 30 hours a week now, but I have no idea how or where to market myself. I will continue to need accommodations such as no night call and limited weekend duty. I would consider doing nonclinical work for an insurance or drug company. I love clinical practice above all else, but I recognize that most employers don’t want docs who can’t do a lot of hours or nights. Private practice is not an option; I have no money to invest and I almost went broke doing it the first time.

Question: I have been unable to practice for several years due to a rare disease.

My health is stabilized to the point where I might work 20 to 30 hours a week now, but I have no idea how or where to market myself. I will continue to need accommodations such as no night call and limited weekend duty. I would consider doing nonclinical work for an insurance or drug company. I love clinical practice above all else, but I recognize that most employers don’t want docs who can’t do a lot of hours or nights. Private practice is not an option; I have no money to invest and I almost went broke doing it the first time.

Answer: That is a heartbreaking story. But many practices are becoming more accepting of part-time physicians, largely thanks to an influx of female physicians who insist on it while they need to mother.

If you indeed feel that you want to continue to practice in the clinical setting, I’d consider contacting some of the larger physician recruiting firms, such as Merritt Hawkins or Cejka Search. Tell them your story, and see what they can come up with. Generally, they are happy to hear from physicians looking for work. They get paid by the hiring company.

You may in the meantime want to look into what it will take to get your license reactivated and board certification renewed.

If the recruitment firms can’t come up with anything, you can look at the math of opening a very small, part-time practice of your own. The key to making it work would be to have virtually no overhead. You could sublet a small space, greet and schedule patients yourself, and outsource billing.

After that, I’d do a sort of self-analysis. If the clinical work isn’t going to happen, assess what parts of it, what skills, what interactions you like best. Can you find those in other settings? If you like to work quietly, look into acting as an editor of journals or Web sites in your field. You could work for your specialty society. Heck, if what you really like is helping people, you could be a private school teacher, if your condition allows. Or you might find part-time work in a hospice. Or help the airlines deal with passengers with severe anxiety. In other words, pinpoint what you love and find other ways to do that. Really, this isn’t a limitation; it's a chance to explore endless opportunities. You just aren’t used to thinking about what else is out there.