I'm just about to finish up my ID fellowship and am considering a non-clinical research job at a large govt research institution - I'd do 1/2 day of patient care per week at a local clinic, but otherwise be at a desk.
The job is appealing on several levels but I'm worried that all my years of clinical training would go to waste. I'm concerned that after a few years it would be difficult to get back into clinical care and feel like a doctor again if that was what I wanted to do.
I've heard it said many times that once you leave private practice you can't go back to academia; similarly, once you leave clinical care how hard is it to go back??
You wouldn't really be leaving clinical medicine, since you will be seeing patients 1/2 day per week. I think that makes a huge difference, both in your confidence and in other people's perception of your continuing competence. You will not have the huge hurdles to re-entry that people have when they leave clinical medicine completely. Would you be doing ID at the clinic or something more general?
I agree with sahmd that you really aren't leaving clinical medicine at all if you are seeing patients 1/2 day per week - this is not unusual in academic medicine amongst those who e.g. have very successful research labs. Your job option seems to be perfect for trying out both. Good luck with your decision.