If you’re thinking of quitting medicine, you’re not alone. A survey carried out by Medscape UK during early 2022 discovered that 1 in 2 junior doctors, 1 in 3 GPs and 1 in 4 specialty doctors were considering leaving medicine. Doctors under the age of 45 were more likely to consider a change than those who were over 45. Oftentimes, most medical professionals still feel they want to use their medical skills in some capacity. However, I have also coached experienced doctors who have wanted a complete career change altogether.
Reasons for quitting medicine
The reasons for quitting medicine are varied. In their survey they found that nearly half of junior doctors intend to pursue non-clinical careers. Unsurprisingly, the top reason is burnout at 37% and not directly linked to the pandemic. 29% stated that they would like to make a career change and female doctors were more likely to do so.
It seems the cold, hard facts of the research hit home with some concerning realities. Whilst most are aware of the ongoing pressures on medical professionals, they found it alarming that so many junior doctors would consider leaving the profession altogether.
How much pressure is too much?
The survey revealed that more than 1 in 3 (37%) reported ‘burnout’ as the most common reason for wanting to quit medicine and pursue a non-clinical career. Unfortunately, GPs were more than three times more likely to cite burnout as the main reason than specialty doctors (16% vs 5%). Of those, 28% planned to make this switch within a year. An additional 30% were hoping to make the change within 2-3 years. Sadly, the urgent timelines quoted by doctors wishing to leave is extremely telling of the urgency of the situation.
The survey revealed the most popular alternative career choices below:
- Healthcare organisations (33%)
- Teaching/Education (32%)
- Pharmaceutical jobs (22%)
- Medical writing (20%)
- Healthtech/technology (17%)
- Law (9%)
In particular, for specialty doctors and GPs, teaching and education were the most popular followed by healthcare organisations. However, from my own experience supporting doctors quitting medicine, I was surprised that management consultancy didn’t feature in the findings.
Side gigs for medical professionals
The survey also revealed that 70% of doctors were already engaging in ‘side gigs’ alongside their primary job as a clinician. Interestingly, more GPs than speciality doctors felt that their side gigs were more fulfilling than their primary role.
Notably, over half of doctors felt ‘satisfied’ or ‘very satisfied’ with their clinical role. And only 30% of GPs reported this compared to 62% of speciality doctors. Again, no big surprises here as we’ve seen how GPs are leaving their jobs in droves. Many are citing ‘stress’ and ‘impossible workloads’ as their reason for quitting medicine for a non-clinical career.
Was a medical career worth the investment?
Overall, the survey revealed quite depressing statistics on the current state of the medical profession. Regrettably, many have felt medicine wasn’t worth the investment. Only (33%) did not feel regret or guilt about the investment in terms of money and time on their medical education. This percentage increased to 43% in the over 45’s. However, 21% felt differently and had a lot of regret and guilt about it. The under 45s and female doctors in this category were double that of male doctors and the over 45s.
Career coaching for quitting medicine
If you’re thinking about quitting medicine, or unsure of your next career move, career coaching can help. Sometimes, drastic decisions aren’t always the best options. It might be that you just need to talk through your current situation. Maybe you could cut down your hours, have more time for yourself. Maybe developing a side gig will break up the intensity of patient-facing work. But it might be that you’re not even sure what that side gig could be? Could it be a new business venture? Or might it be a hobby/interest that you could develop further.
In addition, our career goals, aims and desires change as we go through our lives. And the NHS has changed drastically. As it stands currently, there doesn’t seem a quick-fix answer to the pressure that it finds itself under. But that doesn’t mean that you have to endure a job you increasingly dislike because you just don’t have knowledge of any other career beyond a clinical one. Career coaching gives you the time and space you need to talk through how you’re feeling and rediscover your passions, values and strengths. From that starting point and with an open mind, you can begin to discover a world of possibilities away from a clinical career.
Many of my clients still have many working years ahead of them and are filled with dread at the thought of staying in medicine until retirement. That’s no way to live. Life is short. There are other exciting, less stressful jobs out there. But they won’t come to you until you seek them out. Quitting medicine is not failure, it’s you taking control of your destiny and future career. Everyone should seek to be happy and fulfilled in their job … including you.