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Managing The Transition From Clinical Practice To A Non-Clinical Career

Physicians seeking non-clinical careers will need to fine tune important life skills. 

A growing number of physicians are pursuing non-clinical careers. Some have discovered they can no longer sustain their purpose and passion through a clinical practice. Others feel trapped in their roles in traditional medicine—and want out.  

The good news is there is an alternative to staying trapped in your clinical practice. It involves “rewiring” yourself—rerouting the personal energy spent in your clinical work into deeply satisfying, work activities.  These personally customized work activities can transform your next chapter into the most fulfilling time of your life. But then, physicians who choose to rewire will need to fine tune a number of important life skills.  

Life skills for sustaining your purpose and passion in the phases of renewal: 

Phase I: The Doldrums

You feel trapped.  Your work life is miserable—but you would rather remain unhappy with what you have than risk a new direction.  Behavioral characteristics: in denial, angry, sad, pessimistic, reactive, low energy, feeling stuck, and resistant to change.  

  • Manage the doldrums, keep the chapter alive 
  • Sort things out  
  • Letting go, an ending to a chapter of your life  
  • Consider a “mini-transition.” Restructure your current chapter of life or end this chapter and begin a transition toward a new chapter. 

Phase II: Cocooning

This is a time of discovery and transformation of your inner self.  Behavioral characteristics: turned inward, meditative, quiet, tapping into core values, spiritual. 

  • Heal, invest in yourself, reflect, find a new identify, spiritual discovery (find meaning, purpose, and sense of self).  
    Seeing the opportunity: not just going from something—but going to.  Rewiring your energy.  
    Identifying your “drivers,” (why you really work) and discovering your hidden drivers. 
  • Sustain your resilience.   

Phase III: Getting Ready

Preparing for the next chapter.  Behavioral characteristics: Sensing new purpose, searching, learning, networking, being creative, free and uncommitted, inner child at work. 

  • Experiment, explore, network, be creative, learn and train.  
    • Linking your drivers to your activities.
    • Knowing what you need to hold on, let go, and take on--so you can move on.   
      Hold on:  How can you stay anchored in your values?
      Let go: What do you need to unlearn, such as bad habits or preferences?
      Take on:  What do you need to learn?  What new information or technical skills do you need?
      Move on: Where are your best learning environments?  Who are your teachers and mentors? 
  • Dream again, a new beginning.  Create your vision of the future.  
    • Own your accomplishments.
    • Rethink the world of work 

Phase IV: Going for It

Seeking external fulfillment.  Behavioral characteristics:  Purposeful, active, busy, committed, optimistic, energized, team player. 

  • Plan, work, pursue goals, achieve  
    • Imagine the possibilities.  
    • Possibilities in action--make it happen 
  • Monitor and re-evaluate

Reader Comments (2)

What I love about this post is it is exactly as I have experienced the process for myself and clients over the past 10 years. The additional point I would like to add is that each stage can take as long (or little) as you decide to let it take. How soon do you want the pain to stop? How long does recovery need to take? When do you want to feel alive again?

Just how fast do you believe you can connect different patterns into your brain? You can do it pretty fast and the good news is there are resources all around you to make it so! Like this blog.
Is it easy to let go with both hands? Absolutely Not. But then you have done much that is not easy, haven't you?


Many thanks for your feedback and insight on the renewal cycle. You're absolutely right. This is a journey--and there is no set time for each phase of the cycle. Some of us have learned the hard way that change is the primary reality that shapes our lives. This model can help us in discovering how to tap the cycle of change for designing the next chapter of our lives. No matter how chnage is impacting us, there are ways to invest in growth.

Joe Halcomb, M.D.

Jan 19 | Unregistered CommenterJoe Halcomb

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