Tired of Medicine? 20 Nonclinical Career Options

Leigh Page


March 14, 2018

In This Article

Recruiting and Hospitals

11. Become a Physician Recruiter

One unusual but financially rewarding job is to recruit physicians for various positions, such as clinical research, hospital employment, and group practice.

As with many other jobs that require interaction with a lot of doctors, it helps to be a physician and understand what makes them tick.

John Goldener, MD, runs a company that recruits doctors for drug trials. Although it took years of hard work to get Goldener Executive Search Associates, in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, off the ground, he said he's now making more money than he did in clinical medicine.

In 2000, Dr Goldener traded his lab coat for a position with an executive search company that worked with pharma companies. It meant giving up clinical work. "If a client calls and wants to talk to me, they don't want to hear that I'm seeing patients," he says.

Three years later, he founded his own company, but a noncompete clause in his contract meant he couldn't solicit any of his old employer's clients. "I had to start at the bottom," he said.

That meant making cold calls to pharma executives asking to do their physician searches and driving to New Jersey to meet with them. "I'm rather introverted, so I had to learn how to call people one after another," he says. It took him 6 months before he landed his first search.

As with any job that involves working with physicians, it helps to be one of them and demonstrate that you understand medical concepts, Dr Goldener adds.

Pros: Physicians who are willing to be patient and work their contacts can earn a high income.

Cons: It can be a tough field to break into.

12. Enter Hospital Administration

Hospital administration is a long-standing option for physicians, and opportunities are expanding as hospitals try to get physicians to align more closely with them.

For a practicing physician who is no longer feeling challenged by patient care, this is a chance to make a big difference across a whole institution and still earn a good living.

Although chief medical officer is the traditional role of physicians, many more positions are opening up for doctors, such as chief operations officer, chief integration officer, chief administration officer, chief strategy officer, chief innovation officer, and chief transformation officer.

Typically, any of these career paths first involves serving on hospital committees for a few years. Once appointed, you may be able to rise through the ranks. But you'll need to deal with business issues that you might not be familiar with. Above all, some colleagues won't view you as one of them any more.

Dr Kennealy became CEO of UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica, California, in the late 1990s. She took the traditional route—serving on hospital committees—in order to build her reputation. She volunteered for her first committee because she wanted to help out after an earthquake hit the area. Then she began to relish the role.

"I realized I was unhappy in my own practice," she says. "I decided there was a lot more that I could contribute in administration." She left her practice in 1996 to become a hospital medical director, and then she became CEO.

Dr Kennealy thinks her experience as a practicing doctor made her a better executive. "Another physician really does understand the physician's point of view," she says. On the other hand, "it's a tricky role, because there are physicians who think you've moved over to the dark side."

Healthcare organizations abound with administrative opportunities for physicians. Eight in 10 healthcare organizations have at least one doctor in senior management, according to a 2010 survey.[9] Multihospital health systems and academic medical centers were most likely to have several physicians at the top, whereas more than one half of community hospitals did not have any physicians in key roles.

Physician leaders can help hospitals reach out to their most important resource, physicians, and establish a trusting relationship. In a 2016 survey, only 45% of hospital-employed physicians said that hospital leadership delivered on its promises, and only 34% were satisfied with the level of communication in the organization.[10]

Physician leadership is linked to the more highly regarded hospitals. A 2011 research study found that specialty hospitals headed by physicians rank about 25% higher on U.S. News and World Report's Best Hospital list than those run by nonphysicians.[11]

Pros: This is a relatively easy transition, and the income is good.

Cons: Former colleagues may distrust you in your new role.


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