hello and help

I am a non-traditional new member of this board and am looking for some help and support. I graduated medical school over 10 years ago as a former non-traditional student and OPM. I was not, however, among the oldest of the OPMs. I find myself now a burned out family practitioner. I am presently not practicing following a relocation to another state with my husband as well as having spent over a year facing my own physical illness. Several months ago, I had neurosurgery and my recovery is thankfully coming along on course.
To anyone out there, especially to the both “Marys” out there with whom I identify in age and gender, I need some support in navigating a return to medicine in a different capacity - perhaps, pursuing a different specialty/residency at my age. I am so removed from the academic environment and have no support system if I were to consider retraining. I had concerns about residency training at my age but thanks to this board I see that it is occurring.
On the other hand, without discussing some of my experiences, I have endured a wide swing of emotions causing me to consider abandoning my career as a physician. On some days, I consider returning to retraining and on other days I have even considered returning to school to become an allied health care professional - you know, like going from MD to RN or RT! Other days I consider becoming a realtor or a financial planner. There is a big part of me that cannot see leaving medicine - I always loved helping and working with patients in a health care setting. However, there were experiences within the present U.S. medical system that truly tore at me. I guess I was too sensitive and let things get to me… I would say that I would require a non clinical setting if I were to return to my career as a physician. Well hey, atleast I would not be rated along with my fellow clinic physicians for how many patients seen/hour and how many dollars billed (sounds much like life in a law firm, right?). Another concern I have is my own health no longer permits the same level of physical stamina I possessed in the past.
I know that my plea for support and help is not traditional for this board. In other ways, I will be similar to some of you should I return to pursue another residency. In closing I just want to say how much I admire all of you here, especially all of the women facing residency over the age of 40 or 50.
OPM is an awesome organization!

Hey Burnedoutmd,
Welcome on board! I’m sorry to hear that you have had such a hard time lately but I am glad that it sounds like you are getting better smile.gif . Being a year away from even applying to medical school I obviously don’t have much of an idea of what you are going through. Just out of curiosity, I have questions which you certainly are not obligated to answer.
1) Are you in a place with hospitals that offer residency training (or fellowships) or would you have to move ?
2) Would you be happy as an allied health professional and would it be that much easier on you than working as a physician?
3) What other jobs have you thought of or would you like to do that you can use your physician training in a non clinical setting?
4) if you did a residency what area would you like to retrain in?
I hope you can get back to a place that you want to be in. Good luck!

I am so thankful that you took the time to respond to my post. I so remember well being in your situation and I can’t deny that it was actually a very positive time in my life (even though I was broke and owned nothing!). It was wonderful to have such a “noble” goal and be immersed in the process. Even though the MCAT and national boards have changed, I would like to be able to contribute my admissions and school experience to the posts here and maybe be of help to someone. Damon, I admire your persistence and desire to pursue medical school admission. I maybe somewhat lost and personally “burned out”, but I am not one of those MDs that would tell you to stay away from medicine.
In answer to your questions, I do live near a major university that has a medical school and residency opportunities. So, thankfully we would not have to move. You’ve asked questions that continually run through my mind. I’d honestly have to say that after being a physician it would be difficult to return to become an allied health professional. I never imagined it would be physically easier but the training for it would definitely be easier than the returning to residency. Yes, I have looked into non clinical opportunities and even applied for case manager positions and in the end they preferred only RNs. In fact, many of the private companies and corporations actively seek RNs for consultant positions. When I looked into those opportunities, thinking that they’d jump at getting an MD, the response was not encouraging.
When I first applied to medical school I did not get in. The second year I applied, I also applied to pharmacy school as a back up. As it turns out, I was accepted into both medical and pharmacy school. I never looked back at pharmacy school until now.
I’ve looked into residency opportunities such as pathology or occupational/environmental medicine. Being out of the academic environment, I have no idea how to return. Ideally, I would love to find an MD career/academic advisor.
Damon, again, thank you so much for caring enough to respond. The support you’ve given means a lot to me, even though as you state, you do not have much of an idea of what I am going through.
Good luck with your courses and I’ll be cheering ya on when you do go through the application process!

Welcome. Your story is sobering to me, to say the least. I am sorry that you’ve encountered hurdles that force you into this reassessment. I appreciate your raising the issue here because I think that we can support you (even if we feel quite inadequate in terms of information) and you can teach us a lot.
Like the others on this board, I am looking at this vista of employment as a physician from “the other side.” I do know of a woman who decided for family reasons to quit her practice as an internist; she got a job with a health insurance company. (her ex-partner in practice is a friend of mine and we used to joke that she had “gone over to the dark side.”)
I have heard lots of people say over the years that an M.D. (or D.O.) degree can be marketed to do all sorts of things, not just practice medicine. Obviously since I don’t even have the degree yet, I haven’t checked this out, but it is a concept I’ve tucked away in the back of my head should I be the one confronting health or other concerns in the future.
Since you’re an FP, you’ve probably seen this article, but I found it interesting - an exploration of “alternative practice styles” including “resort doctor” and “novelist.” (!) click on this link: 14 Alternative Practice Styles
It is funny you should mention realtor; my sister is one, and I suspect that had I not figured out that I wanted to be a physician, that’s what I’d be doing. I knew someone who parlayed her personal experience as a military spouse into a job handling personnel relocations. I have no idea if there’d be enough of a niche for a physician to do something like that, but you never know.
This is a selfish request, but - Please keep talking to us. I know I feel I can learn a lot from your experience.

Dear Mary,
I am so thrilled to have heard from you and I appreciate your support! You are in no way selfish to request that I keep posting here. I feel as if I were the selfish one and would be honored to be of help to anyone here.
The link you provided was great. I, in fact, ended up my last practice experience as an urgent care doctor and enjoyed the benefits of regular shift work and no call. Sometimes, I felt as if I were a waitress in a busy restaurant and often urgent care centers would skimp on the number of providers and ancillary help. As a result, I would get the wrath of patients waiting for treatment much like in a restaurant waiting for food service! It was very satisfying but exhausting at the end of a shift but I would generally leave with a sense of accomplishment. One aspect that was disconcerting to me as an MD was that a number of urgent care centers seemed to interchange the use of MDs with mid-level providers, in the interest of saving money. In my last practice setting, PAs were assigned shifts with no MD on site. So, I almost felt that I was competing for the same job with a mid-level who would be about $15 less per hour for the company. Before my recent surgery, I was looking into locum tenens opportunities as well as applying to an occ med/epi program which would add an MPH to my MD, thus allowing me to enter the public health arena (which is appealing to me).
All of the above was still stepping on familiar territory, so to speak. Since I have had to stop things for awhile, I began to reassess the whole big picture - that is where the real estate thing came to mind! As I mentioned in my post to Damon, I found that it was not so easy to market my MD degree elsewhere - again, due to economic issues, RNs are increasingly being recruited where previously a physician would be preferred. For every MD employed at a health insurance company, there are more RNs in their employ. That is not to say that the door is closed, however! Since I was even accepted to pharmacy school along with medical school ( I was a reapplicant), I have now even considered returning to a PharmD program. However, I was discouraged due to the fact that my great pre-med/pharm work was deemed to be ancient (in this case I would possibly face a redo not due to bad grades but rather the passage of time!).
Again, I am so grateful that you have taken the time to respond to and support me. The academic setting is filled with pre-medical advisors and once in medical school you have access to advice, but it has been really difficult navigating a change once having practiced. When I requested the Occ Med application I faced my first barrier not knowing what to do with the request for Academic letters of recommendations! My letters are long gone and are over 10 years old! Having graduated in the pre internet era, I know nothing of ERAS!
Hey, I think I'll kick back a bit and getting writing that medical thriller, eh?
-I posted my original post on the physician section after first posting here. How do I edit (if possible) my post there so I can just redirect the discussion here where folks have answered. Do I have the ability to erase or modify the post there? Thanks!

Hi there,
I am A 51-year old second year surgery resident. I am not facing residency, it is facing me and we are fighting head on. I love what I do so it doesn’t really seem like work to me at this point. Anyway, one of my colleagues and also my cousin is an MD-JD. The untility of having both degrees is enormous. Both are doing health policy on Capitol Hill. My cousin runs the Washington, DC branch of a NY law firm and practices pediatric neurosurgery at the same time. I might add, that she started law school at the age of 58 and has never looked back. My fellow surgical resident has taken two years off from her residency to be a legislative assistant with specialty in health affairs for a US Senator. Both my cousin and my colleague make great money and work primarily from their laptop computes. Both are having great fun so don’t exclude health policy as an option with or without the JD.

Natalie smile.gif

Thank you so much for responding to my post. I do, in fact, have a great passion for health care policy. I never thought that obtaining a legal education would be an asset in which to enter that arena. So, thanks for the suggestion! I would love the opportunity to parlay my incessant complaining about the present lack of access to or barriers to obtaining health care in this country into something useful. Being able to feed myself at the same time would be fine, too (don’t even need great money; I’m very low maintenance!). How was it that your colleague in residency was able to connect with a legislator? I realize that a number of opportunities exist for me but I simply do not possess the “know how”. Your MD-JD cousin is incredibly accomplished and driven, much like yourself!
Since joining this board, I have caught up on old posts and never cease to be impressed with everyone’s courage, drive and persistence. Perhaps with the support here I’ve already received, I can regain some of the confidence that I’ve seemed to lost along the way. Interestingly enough, being a neurosurgical patient this past year myself, I joined an online patient support group as well. Sadly, many members wrote scathing posts about their experiences with surgeons and the health care system that I often felt personally shamed (even though I never revealed my profession online). I am so thrilled to have found this board where I can be encouraged and feel positive about the profession I chose some years ago.
Natalie, thank you for taking the time from your hectic residency schedule to respond to me! I have no doubt whatsoever that you will prevail over the residency! smile.gif

sorry, already posted above… smile.gif

Hello. I’m sorry to read about your situation and feeling “burned out.” I’m a pre-med so I can’t give you much advice on the physician job market/physician-alternative careers…b/c well, I’m so focused on just getting in to medical school! (Actually, I’m not even that far yet tongue.gif – I’m just now attempting my prereqs and hope to go post-bacc full-time next year). One step at a time…I need to stay sane.
But, I think Mary’s link and the others’ suggestions provide a good starting point. If you’re willing to consider starting at the bottom again, I would consider going back to school–either to get a master’s/Ph.D. in education (or whatever degree is needed to teach) so you could teach medical school (which may be a good option for you), an MPH, going for a Pharm.D., etc. Also, if you really love pharmacy and don’t want to go back to school for the pharmacy degree, would you consider working for a pharmaceutical company? I’m sure physicians may refer to them as the “enemy” sometimes, but I would think that these companies (Eli Lilly, Merck, Pfizer, etc.) may actually prefer MDs (or DOs) on their payroll as opposed to just regular folks because the docs would actually understand how their drugs work, could explain the benefits, etc. As a FP, I’m sure you have had a lot of experience prescribing certain drugs, know how they work and what they did for your patients, etc.
Just some suggestions to think about it. I hope things work out for you.

my general rule for making career decisions is this: think about what brings tears to your eyes or puts a chill up your spine. then follow it.
more practically but with more or less the same philosophy underneath it, i strongly recommend the career-changer’s bible, “What Color Is Your Parachute?”
Its exercises and suggestions can be very helpful.
Good luck!

Stacy and Joe,
I am truly touched that you have taken the time to offer your suggestions and encouragement. That is often what is needed when feeling stuck and suffering with a confidence hit as I am.
I’ve vaguely heard of the book, Joe, but wasn’t aware of it’s possible application to me. So, thanks for the suggestion!
Stacy, I don’t have any ego problems preventing me from starting at the beginning - just those that involve confidence! You are truly admirable to be starting over and taking things one things at a time. I have to remind myself of that as well because otherwise it’s easy to lose your sanity and panic! Atleast for me!
My best wishes to you both - and thanks again for caring! smile.gif