By James J. Mangraviti, Jr. 

Should I Leave Clinical Practice? 

One of the most gut-wrenching decisions you will face in your professional life is whether to transition away from a clinical career in which you have invested so much time, training, and education.  If and when to do so is obviously a deeply personal decision.   

Why Physicians Leave Clinical Practice 

We have assisted many thousands of physicians who wished to leave clinical practice.  The reasons for wanting to transition to an alternative career include: 



Lack of autonomy. 


Having to work nights/weekends and be on call. 

Wanting to spend more time with their family. 

Wanting to make more money. 

Looking for new challenges. 

A disability which prevents clinical practice. 

Not wanting to practice past a certain age, but not looking to retire fully. 

Working more and more hours for less and less money. 

Just not enjoying clinical practice. 

If you fall into one or more of the above categories, rest assured you are not alone.  Each year we have hundreds of physicians looking to leave clinical practice attend our annual conference on non-clinical careers for physicians 

Can I fix what I don’t like about my practice so I don’t need to leave clinical medicine? 

Before you decide to leave clinical practice, we suggest that you see if you can “fix” your clinical career to make it enjoyable again.   

One of our clients, we’ll call him Charlie, took this advice to heart and was able to fix his clinical career.  In a nutshell, Charlie was a successful urologist in his early fifties who was looking to move out West and have more fun.  He decided to start a continuing education company with his wife and base it near a ski resort.  The new business sucked up a lot of Charlie’s time, made little or no money, and stressed him and his wife out to no end.  Eventually Charlie met a urologist who practiced in the resort town.  Charlie negotiated a partnership for himself where he works one week on, two weeks off. He does some consulting on the side.  Charlie now lives where he always dreamed of living and has the free time he wants to pursue his outdoor passions.  In short, he was able to “fix” his clinical career to make himself happy. 

A good way to approach the decision is to get out a piece of paper and put down on one side what you like about your clinical job. On the other side, put down what you don’t like about your clinical job.  If what you don’t like grossly outweighs what you like and you are not able to fix what you don’t like, it’s probably time to get serious about getting a plan to leave clinical medicine and transition into a non-clinical position. 

One of the key questions for leaving clinical medicine when you are unhappy is: What is the cause of the unhappiness?  Are you truly unhappy because of the demands of your job, call, hours, malpractice, or pay?  Alternatively, are you unhappy for other reasons (such as family or health) and in essence blaming clinical medicine for this unhappiness?  This self-awareness and honest appraisal may be difficult to come to grips with.  Professional help may be of assistance in the decision-making process. Once you determine that, in fact, your job/clinical medicine is the cause, or a major cause, of your unhappiness, the transition to non-clinical medicine makes a lot more sense. 

Are there viable options for physicians who leave clinical practice? 

With healthcare making up around one sixth of the US economy, there is enormous opportunity for physicians who would like to leave clinical practice. So many non-clinical job options exist that the biggest problem a physician looking to leave clinical practice may face is choosing the non-clinical career which is their best fit.   Common non-clinical fields that physicians transition to include insurance (health, life, and disability), industry (pharma & device companies), medical communications, federal agencies (FDA, CDC, CMS, etc.), consulting, IT/Informatics, administration, startups, etc.   

Emotional Considerations When You Leave Clinical Practice 

If you try to leave clinical medicine, you can expect your transition to be an emotional experience.  Giving up your clinician identity, dealing with your family, and secretly searching for a job while employed can be unsettling.  Please consider this, however.  Over the years we have asked countless of our faculty if they regretted leaving clinical practice.  The far most common response we receive has been, “Yes, I regret not leaving clinical practice earlier.” So at the end of the day, the emotions you can expect to feel after you leave clinical practice are happiness and relief. 

Family Support to Leave Clinical Practice 

One of the key determinants for a successful transition from clinical to non-clinical medicine is the level of support of the physician’s spouse or significant other.  The physician deciding on whether or not to leave clinical medicine should identify the needs and desires of their spouse or significant other early on.  The spouse or significant other’s financial, family, and social status may be immediately and adversely affected by the physician’s transition to a non-clinical position.  On the other hand, a happy non-clinical physician will likely be better spouse than a miserable physician stuck in a clinical practice he/she no longer enjoys. 

Physicians are well advised to explain and enlist the support (emotional and financial) of their spouse/significant other in the transition process. In addition, children old enough to understand should be consulted and, if possible, enlisted to help as well. 

The bottom line is that physicians who have the support of their families are much more likely to make a successful transition to non-clinical medicine. 

Bottom Line: Should I leave clinical practice? 

Whether a physician should leave clinical practice is up to the physician.  If you can’t fix what you don’t like about practicing there are many non-clinical options out there where you can find happiness and engagement and make a very healthy living.  Get your spouse on board, do your homework, make it happen, and hopefully your only regret will be that you should have left clinical practice sooner.  

James J. Mangraviti, Jr. is the co-founder of SEAK, Inc.’s annual Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference, held each year in Chicago.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians Conference features a faculty of dozens of physicians who have experience in non-clinical and alternative careers.  Many of our faculty are SEAK alumni.  SEAK’s Non-Clinical Careers for Physicians conference also includes free 1-1 peer mentoring, the opportunity to interview with employers and recruiters, and a robust networking experience.  Jim can be reached at 508-457-1111 or