The author of a recent article claimed that "we all lose " when an experienced physician prematurely leaves clinical medicine. Of course, it is inevitable that a clinical career will come to an end, but whether patients and society suffers depends on what that retiring doctor does next. More and more, it seems, they pursue other ways to help patients and add value to the system by pursuing non-clinical careers. That's a good thing, because:
1. There are simply more options
2. We can use their clinical expertise in non-clinical roles
3. We need as few grumpy doctors taking care of patients as possible
4. The system gets what it is designed to produce and happy doctors is not one of the endpoints
5. Times of great change will result in a predictable percentage of turnover
6. People are living longer to pursue other opportunities , doctors included
7. The system does not value judgement and people go where they are treated best
8. The next generation will have a shorter clinical half life and expect to move on
9. It removes the stigma of non-clinical doctors as being "not real doctors"
10. The world of work is changing and becoming more accomodating, even though many employers are not.
Leaving clinical practice is not a bad thing , and , in many instances, we all gain when it happens. There is no obligation to practice and we should make it as easy as possible for those leaving clinical practice to help patients in many other ways.
Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at www.sopenet.org