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Job Q&A
by Megan Malugani
[ More Job Q&As ]
Dr. Lorne Weeks

When Lorne Weeks, MD, decided to quit his orthopedic surgery practice two years ago, he hired a career consultant to help him explore his professional options. Now Weeks is a career consultant himself. As co-founder of the Physician Career Network, a division of CareerLab, he helps fellow physicians who are seeking career direction or trying to transition out of clinical medicine. Weeks talked to about why so many physicians are frustrated in their careers, and what they can do about them. How did you end up working as a career consultant for physicians?

Dr. Lorne Weeks: I had hired the president of CareerLab to guide me through my own career assessment process. We had an intuitive feel that I represented only the tip of the iceberg in terms of disgruntled physicians in need of career management programs, and we realized physicians could be a new niche for CareerLab. I was hired to cultivate this new client base.

Through our office's active research, we've unearthed an astounding number of clinicians coast to coast who are seeking alternative careers. We estimate that approximately 80,000 physicians are actively looking for careers outside clinical medicine. That's 12 to 15 percent of the practicing physician population.

Mc: Why are so many physicians frustrated with their careers?

LW: I think physicians are a beleaguered lot, and medicine is a profession in crisis. Thirty to 50 percent of physicians say they wouldn't choose a medical career if they had to do it all over again. It's not the profession we thought we were getting into thirty years ago.

Most of us were motivated to pursue a career in clinical medicine with the understanding that we could develop a successful practice by providing compassionate and conscientious care. But in the current managed care market, physicians are forced to be entrepreneurial and operate like businesses. Many of us chose medicine over more traditional business careers to avoid working that way.

Mc: How do you help these physicians find greater career satisfaction?

LW: Our program includes three phases: assessment, career blueprint and implementation. We tailor the program to each client.

Mc: How are physicians' skills and experience transferable to non-clinical jobs?

LW: Physicians come to me and ask, "What else can I possibly do?" I say, "Anything you'd like." Given a physician's education and potential, their opportunities are virtually unlimited. From what I've witnessed, the physicians who are interested in alternative careers represent the brightest and best in the clinical arena. If you're considering traveling an alternative path, you're in excellent company.

We transition physicians onto alternative career paths that intersect or overlap with the paths they've already traveled. Hopefully, they can apply what they've learned to a better fit and take their careers to higher levels. In most situations, it's not simply a lateral move but a ramping up in job satisfaction and earning potential.

Mc: What careers and industries are good fits for physicians?

LW: Physicians come to us with incredibly diverse backgrounds and interests. A few of the areas physicians may transition into include advertising, public relations, biotechnology, corporate medicine, counseling, legal consulting, working for the media or Internet companies, medical consulting, medical device manufacturing, medical research, military careers, executive positions in healthcare organizations, publishing, positions in regulatory agencies such as the FDA, sales, teaching the sciences, and scientific writing.

Mc: What's a physician's biggest challenge when adjusting to a new line of work?

LW: I practiced orthopedic surgery for seventeen years, and I miss some of the technical aspects. I also miss caring for patients. On the other hand, my career change has fulfilled personal needs that would be largely unmet if I'd continued to run the treadmill of clinical practice. I spend more evenings and weekends with my wife and five kids. It's been a very acceptable trade-off for me.

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