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Why Physicians Quit, and What They Do


Uncertainty and confusion are causing many physicians to seriously consider other careers. Michelle Mudge-Riley left clinical practice to guide them.

The first question on physician turned mentor, D.O., and M.H.A. Michelle Mudge-Riley's website, is "Are you a physician looking to reinvent yourself?"

Well, do you feel lucky? Well, do you, doc?

Whether it's uncertainty, fear, lack of autonomy, sense of accomplishment or achievement, greener pastures, or garden variety burn-out, you're not alone.

You may be in the majority, and that's a good reason to have a chat with Dr. Mudge-Riley to get her insight.

Still, it's not for everyone. “You have to be motivated,” Dr. Riley said.

That would only be the beginning. I have talked with hundreds of physicians over the years about career changes, and my first piece of advice is always, while the grass may be greener, you still have to mow it. Some took the plunge, most came back after a year or two.

Mudge-Riley’s track record is a strong endorsement to seek more than an attentive ear and a few homilies. Over ten years and hundreds of direct clients later, "no one has gone back," although some have gone to part-time practice or volunteer to keep up their licenses and skills. Indirectly, she has advised thousands of physicians.

What’s her secret? "Helping to make the right career choice, to understand the new environment, and long-term coaching on how to succeed and adapt."

Obviously, making the right career choice will have a lot to do with longevity and satisfaction. Following one's passion is a good choice, although things like clog dancing or starting that ostrich farm may require some additional thought - and a big nest egg.

Mudge-Riley's triad of the essentials is a combination of Zen and Ben Franklin, "Run toward your future, not away from the present; understand your aspirations, and understand market realities." Like that clog dancing thing and making a living.

Securing the long-term mentoring, support, and coaching Dr. Riley provides makes good sense even for an established career, and is essential for a new one. The best mentors become lifelong friends, and Dr. Riley has made many.

What are the most satisfying and popular second careers? There are three top areas depending on your personality:

1. Entrepreneurship such as pursuing inventions or telemedicine;

2. Leadership such as administration, public health, and management in industries that benefit from a physician's skill sets and training; and,

3. Public policy such as politics, government, and other public and private systems.

One last piece of advice, and the reason to consult with a professional and experienced career coach, particularly one that has walked your walk - the grass on the other side is greener for a reason, and that is because something is fertilizing it.

So, watch your step.

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