So, Doctor, You’re Leaving Your Job …

By Ben Levin, MD
May 25, 2018

A physician leader advises: Maintain a professional and positive demeanor while in transition. Most important, don’t burn bridges.

The health care industry always has been characterized by a relatively high state of flux and staff turnover. Because of a number of factors — including educational training ladders, clinicians switching groups and high burnout rates in certain specialties — large health care organizations are constantly in a state of hiring new employees and saying goodbye to others.

This situation exists for doctors, nurses and many other health care professionals, and is compounded in an era of soaring demand. Physicians, especially in many generalist specialties, really do have their pick of jobs. If one particular job isn’t working out, they can move on quickly to bigger and better opportunities.

Every professional, not just a doctor, must realize the world is small — you never know the next strange twist that’s going to happen on your journey.

Unfortunately, the reality of most situations in which a job isn’t working out can be engulfed in feelings of bitterness and negativity. Doctors also are in the unique position of having to give several months’ notice when resigning.

So, doctor, you’ve found another great opportunity. You’ve given your notice and feel like mentally checking out. Don’t make the mistake of letting your standards slip. Here are three important things to remember:

1. It’s about your patients. No matter what’s gone wrong and how badly you believe your workplace has treated you, remember that, ultimately, your patients need you. They demand your excellent clinical care until the moment you walk out of the door. Make it about them, and you’ll never be disappointed.

2. Not everyone, anywhere, can be all bad. OK, you’ve had a clash that finalized your choice to resign. You might be angry and upset about what happened and think your current institution is the worst place in the world. However, it’s not possible that everyone, anywhere, is all bad. There are plenty of great people at your workplace who probably are sorry to see you leave.

3. Be the ultimate professional. You are a member of a noble and ancient profession. Show your workplace how professional you are, and how much they will be missing out when you leave. In fact, maybe even go an extra mile in your last few months. It’ll be the best springboard into your new job, too.

Perhaps the biggest reason, though, not to leave with a bad attitude is the age-old advice: Don’t burn your bridges.

Every professional, not just a doctor, must realize the world is small — you never know the next strange twist that’s going to happen on your journey. Someone who once was a professional adversary could end up being your friend and colleague one day. Maybe you’ll even come back to the same institution in a much-senior and higher-paid role.

Life can be strange, and you’ve got to be tactical and smart. Always strive to be an awesome doctor and a great colleague, and you can’t go wrong.

Ben Levin, MD, is a board-certified internal medicine physician based in Massachusetts, and co-founder of DocsDox, an online service that connects physicians and health care professionals with independent job opportunities.

Topics: Career Planning

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