What Else Can I Do Besides Primary Care Medicine?

Though primary care physicians are at the forefront of medicine, over 80% of these in-demand specialists report that they experience feelings of burnout. Naturally, primary care physicians who struggle with burnout may wonder what other options exist. Keep reading this article if you are considering alternatives to a career in primary care medicine.

Reframe your specialty

First, if you are feeling disinterested in, and discouraged with, your field, then consider whether your burnout is limited to specific aspects of your primary care specialty – aspects of your work that used to inspire and motivate you, but that you are not passionate about anymore. If you enjoy your specialty overall, but find that certain features of the specialty are no longer for you, then reframe your practice.

One of the most significant advantages that primary care physicians enjoy is the ability to choose and/or limit their scope of practice. Primary care physicians may effectively select their desired patient population by obtaining additional certifications or by simply becoming well-known in the community for excelling in the treatment of certain types of medical conditions. They may see mostly geriatric patients, for example, or they may specialize in treating diabetics. It is also useful to note that in areas where access to healthcare is restricted, hospitals will often rely on the versatility that primary care physicians can offer, and may provide such valuable doctors with opportunities to work outside their original scope of practice.

Consider switching specialties

Physicians in multiple specialties, including internal medicine and psychiatry, can subspecialize within their chosen specialty. After completing a one- to three-year fellowship post-residency, internal medicine physicians can become experts in any of fourteen subspecialties. If you have already subspecialized and find that your chosen subspecialty is not a good fit for your interests and skills, another desirable option may be to revert to your original internal medicine specialty.

Completely switching specialties is not an easy process, but such a change can be accomplished. If you want to start fresh in a new specialty, you will have to go through the match process and complete a residency in the new specialty.

Gear your medical degree toward a non-clinical career

If you want to completely leave the world of primary care and do not want to go through residency again, consider pursuing a non-clinical career that relies on your medical degree. Here are some potential non-clinical careers for physicians:

Medical writing – Physicians are often consulted as experts in their field. This knowledge base provides credibility when doctors write books, journal articles, magazine features, and whitepapers.

Product endorsement – Physicians with a strong social media presence are uniquely positioned for this lucrative career. Medical companies prefer those with strong marketing skills, as well as professional credibility, to endorse their products.

Medical research – Each year, hundreds of thousands of clinical trials are carried out. Physicians who perform research at hospitals and private institutions can be on the cutting edge of new medical therapies and technologies.

Expert witness – Physicians are often asked to help defend or prosecute in lawsuits such as medical malpractice cases. By selectively choosing which cases to represent, physicians who serve as expert witnesses can pursue a career that is simultaneously lucrative, easily adapted to the needs of family time, and consistent with one’s personal ethics.

Though primary care medicine offers a wide spectrum of career paths, it may not be for everyone. Reframing your specialty, considering another specialty, or pursuing non-clinical careers are strategies you can take to position yourself for a career outside of primary care. 

Keywords: PCP, primary care, medicine, physicians, family medicine, internal medicine, psychiatry, pediatrics, careers, subspecialty, switching specialties, burnout

Tagline: Read this article if you are experiencing burnout and are curious about promising alternatives to a career in primary care medicine. 


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