I was completely miserable in clinical medicine as well. At the age of 33 years I felt trapped by the loans and trapped by my lack of any other marketable skills that could pay off the loan. Being single and having no financial backup, I thought I had no way out of this mess. Constantly I fantasized about the different alternative careers: bioethics, biotech, medical informatics, health policy research, fellowship/specialty, medical writing, acupunture medicine, hospital architecture, international health consulting, catering/cake making, interior decorating, etc. At one point I even considered pushing a hot dog cart or a soup cart (I make great soups!) on the National Mall.
I needed a sustainable full-time income, and I needed to get out of clinical medicine, but I didn't want to get into more schooling and accrue more debt. I cringed at the thought of taking a paycut in doing a fellowship--not that any fellowship really interested me anyway. Fortunately by the grace of God, I landed a job with the US Food and Drug Administration, where I have been working for the last year. It has been the best job I've ever had. My first computer password at the FDA was "ThankGod1!"
That should illustrate how desperate I was. This is a normal 9-5 job, with no call ever. With no crying and screaming patients. No guilt-tripping colleagues. No controlling hospital administrators. No greedy practice managers. There has been not a single overnight emergency. I have thrown away my pager. I don't need to study up on my own time. I don't need to worry if someone is going to sue me. I never have to fight with the insurance company about my next paycheck. Every two weeks, the government direct deposits a reasonable check into my bank account. I work with bunch a great people, have a cute office, and exercise at the gym facility on site every day. The work we do is exceptionally meaningful. Like normal people, I actually have time to sit back and have some coffee at work. This past Christmas, I walked out of my office with the keys in my and, and thought, wow, for the first time in my professional life, I am celebrating the holidy like a normal person. I rode the last bus home while listening to the beautiful carols on the radio in complete holiday spirit.
Normal people just cannot imagine the crap we have to doctors put up with in this age of "managed," i.e., cheap care. They really cannot.
For those folks looking for an alternative, my advice is consider working for the government. You will gain incredible skills while learning on the job as an insider and you will be very marketable to work for industry in the future if you choose to. My job is not easy by any means, but it is not malignant like the ones in clinical medicine. Use the website
to look for the jobs. The CDC is currently hiring medical officers. The VA hospital in Michigan is currently looking for a Patient Safety officer position. The WHO periodically hires physician-officers. The FDA is always looking for qualified physicians who like to read, write, analyze, and debate. Check JAMA and NEJM religiously, and sometimes there are some very interesting positions that open up there. Once you get your foot in the government, it's much easier to move around to another department if you get bored with your job. I did not find AMA's Leaving the Bedside that helpful.
I put this out there as a public message because I know that many women are extremely unhappy and disappointed by the promise clinical medicine. Yesterday I got a call from a friend who is in clinical medicine (in internal medicine) who is on the brink of closing her practice after 4 years of hard work. She is so stressed out that she is taking blood pressure medications, and she's only 36 years old!
I will say this to residents, premeds, med students: DO NOT DO PRIMARY CARE. This is coming from someone who considers herself an internist at heart and mind, and someone who believes in primary care. Primary care may appeal to you on paper: getting to help people, getting to talk to people, getting to know people, getting to work with women, etc. But believe me, in reality, you will be expected to see more patients than you'll ever imagine, and you will not have time to talk to your patients, getting to know them, or sorting out their psycho-social-emotional issues. If you do these, you will be doing it for free, out of your own time, your time away from your babies and husbands while your debt is not making a dent. If you don't believe what I am saying here, look at the theme on MOMMD--how many women physicians MOMMDs in primary care are unhappy. How many of them are looking for a way out. Check out the popularity of the thread on medical transcriptionin a MOMMD physicians forum.
Dr. Ethiope, PM me if you'd like to look into working for the FDA. My only regret is I'd really like to move to Vermont or to a little town, but my job is here in Washington DC--so I really can't move to anywhere else if I want to keep this job.
But this holiday season, I am very, very thankful. Jingle bell indeed!
I actually wrote my excited response before I even read your whole message. I'm sitting here smiling as you talk about writing and the ministry. I definitely want to (and do) write, and I don't really want to enter the ministry, per se. But, I am very interested in and fascinated by world religions, etc, and I think that's where my interest in ethics comes in. Those personality tests may be worth something afterall I've been doing a lot of reading about INFPs lately and they talk about how empathetic (sometimes too much) we are which leads us to be very concerned and aware of others' feelings. Interest in the ministry comes out of that. Are you taking the test through a counselor or some other way? If some other way, does it give you a list of careers that people with that personality type self-report that they enjoy. If not, I have one if you're interested.
Sorry about all the repeated posts, I'm reading and posting between patients.
alternativeMD, YOU'RE JOB SOUNDS WONDERFUL!! Actually, I was talking to a colleague a little while ago and she was telling me about a former colleague of hers who's now at the FDA, but I don't know her name. I would love to find out more about landing a job at the FDA or some other government agency. I have been looking at the NIH jobsite and, actually, the Smithsonian (just hoping something I could do would pop up - I'd LOVE to work there). I live only 50 miles from D.C., but D.C. is exactly where I want to live (family and friends live all around this area for me and I love D.C.).
Only one problem, I don't know how to IM on here, but I'll send you a private message after I see my next two patients.