If you “leave” clinical medicine, are you still a doctor? What does it mean to leave medicine, anyway? Fear and uncertainty, all wrapped up in identity – if you’re facing complex emotions as you consider a nonclinical career in medicine, this episode is for you.
In this episode of The Career Rx we’ll discuss:
- How your identity and career are really linked
- The grief, fear, and excitement of transitioning out of clinical medicine
- Preparing yourself for the reaction of others
Today’s topic was suggested by our special guest, Dr. Debbie Bradley, a board certified medical oncologist and certified coach who has recently left her clinical practice for a role as a medical monitor for a Contract Research Organization (CRO). Listen as we discuss how leaving medicine can impact your identity, how others view you, and your internal monologue around taking a new career path.
In this Episode:
[1:30] Meet Dr. Debbie Bradley
[4:40] Addressing your identity as a physician, and allowing for change
[12:50] Why is fear holding us back?
[22:01] Handing the grief of leaving your patients
[30:15] Doctors are in all areas of medicine
[36:10] Try this on LinkedIn with your med school alumni
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TRANSCRIPT: Episode 107 – Leaving Clinical Medicine – What Does it Really Mean? With Dr. Debbie Bradley
Hey there, I’m Marjorie Stiegler and you’re listening to The Career Rx podcast, where we tackle the important things they don’t teach you in medical school. Like how to treat your career, like the business, it really is, with strategies to accelerate the kind of success that you want, because you deserve a career you love, and a career that loves you back. Are you ready? Let’s get into it.
Well, today, I’m so thrilled to welcome to the show, Dr. Debbie Bradley, who is a medical oncologist as well as an executive coach, among many, many other things. And she’s here to talk with us, right with me and with you, my listeners about all the things wrapped up in what it means to leave clinical medicine. I think this is such a loaded question. That means so many different and deep things to so many different people. So Debbie, thank you so much for being on the show.
Thank you so much for having me today.
I’m so delighted that you’re here I think before we dive in and talk about you know, what it means to leave and and I’m glad that we even kind of brought this across the radar when I was really asking out loud, you know, to people, what should I put on the show next, you know, I’ve I’ve crossed 100 episodes.
Maybe I’m running out of creativity. What do people want to talk about? And you suggested this topic, and I thought it was just it’s, it’s so simple but really, really profound. Before we delve into it, would you take a minute or two to tell my audience a little bit about you?
Absolutely. So I am a board certified medical oncologist, I graduated from med school just over 20 years ago, went straight through residency fellowship and actually started my career. I’m a very academic subspecialized genitourinary oncologist. And as I grew, I began mountain biking and actually racing mountain bikes transitioned into private practice, and more of a rural setting, which I felt wasn’t a perfect fit for me.
And now I’m somewhere in between, and more recently have made the very hard but very exciting decision to transition out of clinical medicine. And it’s been a very interesting but fun experience and as I’m talking to just a lot of my peers and, you know, seeing people in different social media platforms, I’ve learned just how much thought is given to this. And so that’s why I decided to share my story.
Thank you so much. That’s remarkable. You and I, I think are roughly parallel, I think in our timelines, and having done academic medicine, sort of first and and for a good bit, I did that myself for a little bit over a decade, and now and have been in pharma for a good number of years. I know that something that you had also mentioned, is that, is that where you work today, or is that just something you had thought about? Or?
Yeah, that’s, that’s where I’m heading. So I actually begin, I’m moving into pharma, middle of October, so I am working out my 90 days. So yeah, I’m right in that transition right now.
Oh, that’s super exciting. And then I think, not only through, obviously, the deep thought you’ve put into this and talking to many of our colleagues and friends, and your experience as a coach, but probably what you’re living a little bit right now, in terms of some of the things that that maybe people think about, when they use the phrase, you know, that I’m going to leave medicine, which.
So just so interesting, it sounds very final and very, and very definitive, in some way, right. And yet, many people that I know who stopped practicing clinically still work in their capacity as physicians. So I don’t know if we’ve left anywhere.
But when you and I were chatting about this episode and thinking about, you know, what is sort of steeped up in what it means to leave, we mentioned a couple of little things that maybe we can dive into talking about, you know, what it means for your identity when you switch and do something different.
If there is an internal process you go through when you sort of realign your, your professional identity or professional activity, and also, what other people may think, as well as both the fear and excitement of new possibilities.
So those are some of the notes I have jotted down, why don’t we just take each one in turn, and, you know, tell me a little bit about what it means to you or to people that you’ve coached or spoken to, in terms of your identity, and maybe a little bit of, of grieving or realigning when that changes?
Yeah, I think that’s a huge part of it. So I’m going to tackle the identity first, you know, me as well as many people I’ve talked to, you know, being a physician was really your dream. And you know, you worked super hard to get there, you know, you climb this huge mountain, and you’re there and you’re doing it.
And then for one reason or another, I think everyone’s story or everyone’s Why is a little bit different. You know, you think about whether I want to do something different. And you have been doing medicine for so long. And we identify as a physician.
And when we identify as a physician in clinical medicine, I think that very much means to us that we come in and we take care of patients and we put patients first. And so for me and several other people that I’ve talked to when you think about doing something that’s not direct patient care, it’s really what is like what am I you know, what, what am I doing?
And I think the other important factor in this is, before you’re truly in that transition, or even when you’re thinking about it, I think the possibilities are just not even tangible. I’ve heard so many times, even me myself, I’ve joked about it. I distinctly remember having a conversation, probably just over a year ago with a colleague and we were having one of those cynical days, you know, we weren’t having a great day.
And you know, as you know, medicine can be tough, and we were just kind of joking around like what else can we do? And you know, I used to be a competitive figure skater and I was like, Well, I guess I could teach competitive figure skating.
And you know, the colleague I was talking to was like, I teach basketball, you know, I could do that. And I think that just illustrates that when we are clinicians that we often don’t realize that we have this amazing skill set.
And there’s several other things we can do if we choose, and if it’s right for us. So I think that’s yeah, with the identity thing, I think is just huge. If just realizing, yes, you have a skill set, and there’s many other things you can do as a physician.
Yeah, I mean, I think that’s actually maybe even two things, right. I mean, one is how deeply we do identify as physicians and sort of hold a mental model that that means clinical medicine, for a lot of people, that’s sort of one in the same.
But also, I think we really have, have, we’ve amassed this skill set that we don’t even know we’ve had, because we aren’t learning those different skills, you know, by their names of, or separately, it’s just part of, it’s part of the work, that, that we just sort of lumped in together as being a good clinical physician.
And, and then people do sit, they sit there and they say to each other, I don’t know how to do anything else, without realizing the vastness of what they do. And they’ll undersell it, right? Like I just all I do is see patients like this little thing, right?
Right. And we do become very comfortable, right? We have this amazing muscle memory and neural pathways that you feel like even though patients are complicated, and it’s life and death, that you could do it in your sleep. And so it becomes something that you’re very comfortable at. And we don’t remember when we were med students, and we had to actually take a history and physical and write a soap note of like, how we had our cheats, cheats, and things like that. And so I think that’s another aspect of it, you know, again, your identity, you’re super comfortable and to consider doing something else. You know, those are new skill sets, like this new muscle memory you have to develop. And I think that can be really frightening.
Yes, absolutely. You know, and so let’s talk about that fear for a second. Because one of the things that people say to me a lot I mean, so people obviously listen to the podcast for this, they take the course as well. Specifically, I guess, Industry Insider.
One of the questions that they ask around non clinical jobs or pharma switches, for example, is you know, whether there are things they will regret, whether you can go back, whether you are quote, still a doctor anymore, I mean, things that, on the one hand are really startling, and then on the other hand, are extremely common.
And so it and I’m thinking about again, that the language of leaving as if it’s a door is closed, that can never be reopened. In my view, that’s not at all the reality. But we seem to paint it in this light, that is not only scary, but seemingly like a decision that can’t be undone. I already know what I think about this, but I’d love to know, what do you think?
Yeah, this was actually, I think, one of the key points in my decision making process. And we can kind of go back and talk about grief, because I think I went through several stages of grief in this decision, which I think actually has been going on for about a year now. And I can really now look at what happened.
But as I was seriously considering, you know, making this transition, and I had talked to some recruiters and I had some interviews set up. And I kind of reached that moment of like, oh, man, like, what am I doing? And it was kind of this, like, freak out, you know, like, like, what if I’m not good at this? Like, what if I don’t like it?
You know, what if I fail, and I think failure is just a really powerful word in medicine, because we don’t really look at failure as growth, you know, failure in medicine, I think we are taught that if you fail, maybe you don’t, you know, make it into the residency you want or the fellowship you want. And then when you start practicing clinical medicine, you know, failure can be bad outcomes and death.
And so I think failure is just a very negative word in medicine. And I distinctly remember having a conversation with a friend, you know, who’s also a coach, and she said to me, she’s like, Debbie, you can’t fail. And I’m like, of course, I can let me tell you the 50 different ways I can fail.
And she said, “No, you have set yourself up in a way that if this is not the opportunity that you want”, right, either you’re not good at it, you don’t like it, you know, something happens, like you still have all this experience as a clinician and you absolutely can go back. And I would say now more than ever, you can absolutely go back.
I mean, I think it depends on how long… excetera it is, you know, keeping up your accreditation, you know, your license, things like that.
But especially in the short term, I think it would be incredibly easy to go back and if you’re Leaving on good terms and, and, you know, still taking good care of patients and things like that I absolutely do not feel that we’re closing a door, you know, I think it’s a door that stays open.
And I know multiple people who are doing other things who continue to do clinical medicine in some way, you know, I very much see that often there’s like, I’m going to step away for a little bit. And then, you know, maybe I add it back part time, or locums, or, you know, I’ve heard of people that really just miss it and want to come back. So I think that is very key to recognize that no, you’re not shutting a door.
Yeah, that’s so true. I think that the door is open. And it’s, it’s the growth edge, right? If it’s not your, if it’s not your cup of tea, for whatever reason, you can go back to what you’re doing before you can go forward and do something totally different.
And it’s just it’s not final, it’s not permanent. It’s not something that it’s not really something that closes a chapter either right, and opens a different one. It’s just an opportunity for growth. So why do you think that people do have so much fear?
I mean, because what I think of what we’ve said, like, sort of, it’s obvious, right sort of self evident, of course, a person can go back. But people don’t seem to make decisions as if that’s true, we do seem to be kind of rooted and held back by fear a little bit.
I think fear is huge. And, you know, my personal journey is I had to really be willing to walk with that fear, to take that next step. And there, I think there were a couple of times in my journey, where I let fear stop me and turn me back and say, nope, you absolutely cannot do it. But I think it is, because we’ve been doing this for a very long time. And like I said, it’s this comfortableness, right, it’s, you know, you don’t think about going in and examining a patient anymore.
You don’t, there’s so much we’ve just done for so many years, and we become so comfortable at it. And I think when you’re going to do something different, there’s going to be a learning curve. And we fail to recognize that, you know, we’ve gotten this skill set, this processing, you know, how we became at what we’re good at, we absolutely can use that same skill set to become good at something else.
But it is definitely stepping out of your comfort zone. And I think that’s natural, you know, whenever you’re doing something new, I think the brain offers up, you know, all kinds of reasons to, quote, keep you safe. I mean, I know my brain offered up a gazillion reasons as to why I should not, you know, step out of my current position, even when I felt like it was something I very much wanted to do.
So I think just really realizing that that fear is growth, and that you’re in this growth pathway, and being willing to walk with it and get whatever support you need, I think is just key. But yeah, I mean, I don’t know, I think it’s just normal. I think fear is normal, and you’re doing something different, or you’re thinking about something different. What do you think?
Yeah, I mean, I think fear is a sign that it’s important, right? So I mean, I think for most of us, if we could remember back to what it felt like on the first day of medical school, or the first day in a in a clinical rotation, or the first day as an intern, and then a resident and then attending, I bet there was fear for many of us at each of those stages of progression. And this is really no different.
It’s just different. But it’s not really different, fundamentally. And when you I think when you have fear, that’s something to pay attention to as a sign of importance. Like, that could be a sign of a threat, for sure, like, you know, fight or flight. But it’s also you know, the butterflies that you have before you make a big decision or you buy a house, you decide to get married, you move, you put in your final match lists, or whatever it is.
And you make a big decision. And I think there’s an emotion that comes with a lot of that that just says, Hey, this is a big deal. It’s a big deal. But and so maybe, maybe we misinterpret that as it’s a big deal with really high stakes. That’s dangerous. So don’t do it, which is I don’t think I don’t think that’s what our voice should be telling us.
Yeah, I 100% agree with that. But I think that’s what we let our voice tell us. Yeah. Yeah.
So you mentioned, you mentioned identity, you mentioned fear, but you also mentioned grieving, and I don’t know if we really talk about that. What do you mean by that? Is that? Well, I’ll just stop talking. You say what do you mean by grieving?
Yeah. So for me, I think when you think about you know, the stages of grief, right, like there’s denial and anger and acceptance and bargaining. When I’ve really taken a step back about my decision to leave clinical medicine and to do something else. I now am fully aware that the actual thought process began a year ago.
And I will admit that I was in the crossroads of burnout, and walking into a patient room, a very young patient with a really horrible disease. And I knew what that outcome was going to look like having done oncology for a very long time. And you know, I had that nauseous feeling in my stomach of like, oh, I just don’t want to go in and have this conversation.
But I walked in the room. And there was just very much something about this patient that I was like, that could be me, that could be my best friend. Like, it just resigned so profoundly to me. And it was at that time where I was charting so much and had really not been doing the things that I liked and taking care of myself.
And I was like, What am I doing? And I did seek help for burnout. And I feel like I got over that. And I’m really glad I did. Because I think if I would have just, quote, run in the midst of burnout, that that wouldn’t have been a good thing. And I think I would not have been happy in the next venture. But I thought about that, and I was like, oh, of course not. You know, I’m a physician.
And I think that’s, you know, back in the times when I was talking to colleagues about what else I could do, and there was really nothing else that I thought about. And so as I recovered from burnout, and you know, started to enjoy my job more, you know, got rid of the people pleasing, had some boundaries in place, I just began to have this feeling of like, something was missing. I’m meant to be doing something a little bit different.
And I talked to some colleagues, you know, in pharma and doing other things, and in my academic career, I had loved research. And you know, right now, you know, being 100%, clinical, there’s just not enough time to do both. And I had these conversations about what it looks like. And I was like, Oh, that would be really cool.
And I thought about it, and like, oh, you should apply? And I’m like, oh, absolutely not. I’m a medical oncologist. This is what I do. Like No way. And I think that’s again, where I was seeing the denial. And I kept again, having that feeling of like what’s missing?
You know, I couldn’t say that I didn’t like my job. But just something was missing. And, you know, I was like, I don’t know, do I change my schedule? I do some activities outside of work, and I felt like I was having a really good time of self care. And, you know, I wasn’t overworking and I was mountain biking and doing the things that I liked.
But I just wouldn’t allow myself that, that thought that there was something else that I could do, and that it would be okay to do. And so whenever I thought about farmos, like, Absolutely not that there’s no way I’m going to hate it, I’m going to be horrible at it. I can’t do it. And so I’m gonna say that that was my denial phase.
And when I made the decision, it was actually a moral injury, I’m going to say, and I, you know, I came in, and I looked at something and I was just like, oh, you know, this is so frustrating. And I say that there’s almost like a switch in my brain when like, I’m done, you know. And I realized that it wasn’t necessarily like that event. And I say, it was kind of the proverbial, you know, straw that broke the camel’s back. But I think really what it was, is I had grown and I had matured, and I had set some boundaries up.
And I knew that there was something else that I wanted to try. And so when I said, I’m done, I think it was really just the point that, you know, my boundaries had been crossed. And it gave me enough momentum to say, okay, I’m willing to walk with that fear, I’m willing to finally listen to that voice in my head that says, I want to do something different, you know, and I knew specifically what I wanted to do, I very much wanted to go into into Pharma. And at that point in time, there was this anger.
And, you know, I fell a little bit into this victim role of like, the system is finally broken me, you know, like, they finally broke me, I’m leaving clinical medicine. And then I realized, like, no, like, the system didn’t break you, you know, like, you’re fine. You’re, you know, this is not being broken.
But I was, I was very angry. And then maybe that lasted for a week or so. And that was would alternate with this profound sadness, like, sadness that I was even considering leaving what was my dream for so long of like, I’ve worked so hard to get here, you know, I’m in this amazing position. And like I said, it was not that I didn’t like my job. And I had to really think about like, am I running away or walking towards and I’m like, I’d really don’t think that I’m running away, you know?
Sure. I mean, a medicine is tough nowadays, and there’s things I don’t like about medicine, but I can honestly say like, that wasn’t it. I Um, and so I went through that anger and that sadness, and I still, you know, have some of that, you know, when I think about now I’m telling my patients I’m leaving, and I’m like, gosh, you know, I’ve, I’ve built up this practice, and I’ve worked really hard.
And I have these relationships with patients. And, you know, telling them is horrible. Like, it’s a horrible feeling, you know, and it’s almost that same feeling of like, oh, my gosh, I gotta go in this room and tell them and, and, you know, I had one patient who was just so upset. And I’m like, This is so not fair to the patients, like they’ve trusted me in their journey. And now I’m kind of picking up and leaving.
And you know, Is that fair to the patients? Is that fair to my partners? And that continues to be a little bit of a struggle, where I can take a look back and say, No, you know, I’m doing the next thing, like, these are problems that are, you know, beyond me. But, you know, these feelings are real, and I think they’re normal. You know, I’ve been an oncologist for 16 years.
And I think that that’s going to take time, and I think there’s still going to be some, you know, like, it’s almost like missing, right, like missing that, you know, that loved one or, you know, you know, sure, you know, in medicine, I’ve had my good moments with medicine, I’ve had my bad moments with medicine, but, you know, overall, it’s a big part of my identity and in my life. And I think I finally got to acceptance.
And I think I can, you know, now sit here and recognize that this is just all part of it. It’s all part of the transition. And, you know, it’s part of, you know, kind of moving on from one chapter to the other.
You know, I’ve jokingly said, I’m retiring from clinical medicine, and people will say that that’s very negative, like you’re not retiring. And I’m like, Well, I kind of see it that way. And I don’t think it’s negative, right? I think it’s, you know, when you say hell yes to something, you know, there’s sometimes you gotta say no to something else.
And so I really look at it as like, this is my next growth, like, this is my next, you know, chapter but I’m always going to be a physician. Yeah. So yeah, you know, like I said, I’m still in the midst of it. And there’s still some rawness about, you know, about leaving, and I think that’s normal and healthy.
Totally. I mean, that makes a lot of sense. And you really are, I mean, anyone who didn’t catch this in the beginning, like you’re in your 90 day notice period, at the time that we’re recording this from your clinical work. So you’re right in the middle of it, you know, walking into the rooms and telling the patients that you’ve made this change and letting your partners know. And, obviously, there’s going to be a lot of emotion wrapped up in that.
And a lot of it is probably also just wrapped up in your own integrity and, and your desire, right to do right by the people you work with. And the patients you care for. Yes, absolutely. Yeah, I think everyone can relate to that. I think the other part that’s interesting, in what you’ve described is, it sounds like there was like a personal narrative going on for you for a little while in between having a seed of curiosity planted where you thought, you know, there’s some things that there’s something missing something more I want to do.
And then another voice in your head saying, like, but you shouldn’t want to do that, right, you should want to stay and do this, you should want to stay and be a clinical physician. Because you’ve worked so hard to get here or because you’ve invested so much in your training, or because the best would expect to have you right, it’s expected that you become a clinician, and you’ll do so until you’re old and gray. That’s what’s expected.
Yeah, I think that was very powerful. And I’ve left positions before, you know, and transitioned, you know, being in medicine, you know, this long, that’s, that’s normal. But I can tell you that when I’ve told people this time, you know, hey, I’m leaving. And they and they say, oh, you know, where are you going?
And I tell them, there’s like this pregnant pause. And I’m gonna say like, it’s, it’s very different from any other experience I’ve had. And I think that there’s different, you know, who knows what other people’s thoughts really are, but, you know, kind of what I’m interpreting as I think, some people are surprised like, they never would expect to hear that from me.
I think, you know, there’s definitely some people that I know are disappointed with my decision. And I think other people kind of stop and say, “Well, gosh, you know, I kind of been thinking about this, like, you know, how did you like it, how did you become brave enough to actually do it? You know, what did that look like?”
But it’s definitely something I’ve noticed, this time with these pregnant pauses, you know, when I told people and of course, you know, I would say, the vast, vast majority of people are very supportive. But, you know, there are some, you know, people that are disappointed in my decision, yes. And I’ve had to really look at that and say, well, they’re not disappointed in me. They’re disappointed in my decision. And I think that’s, that’s, you know, going to be part of any transition.
I think that’s right. I can remember quite vividly when I took my first role in medical affairs in, in the pharmaceutical industry that my, you know, had been in academics for a very long time. And, and good at it, you know, and having a good amount of success and my partners and my boss and my mentors, I think surprised, as you said, was very common people just sort of didn’t see it coming.
In the end, they didn’t understand. They just didn’t understand. But I think as we all say, in medicine, that we’re lifelong learners, right, and I wanted to learn something different. I wanted to just do something that was a little bit different.
And I don’t know, I guess, because a lot of people really do actually like to be in their comfort zone, maybe learning little new things along the way. I think it was surprising to people that I wanted to do something so different. And I do think some people were confused, and some people were supportive.
And I don’t think actually anybody was overtly not supportive. I just don’t know what their internal dialogue was, you know? Yeah. I think people had it, they had a different vision of what my career would look like. But it certainly didn’t match up with mine. You know, people have said, “Oh, but you could have been chair.”
Well, I mean, that’s not actually really anything that I had ever aspired to, or would want to do. So it is interesting. What other people, how people react, and what they say. And I think that’s something that many of our colleagues, that’s probably not like that alone, is maybe not the only thing holding them back. But I think a considerable component is what will people think, or what will people say?
Yes, and I think that we have become very good people pleasers. In growing up in medicine, you know, you always want to do your best and, and you, you know, you think about med school residents, like you want to be a good resident, you want to be seen as being good. And, you know, you move into your attending career, right.
So I think people pleasing is natural for us. But you know, even when you’re recognizing and it beyond that, for what it is, I think it’s just something very different. And I think one of the comments that stuck out most to me is actually my very best friend who is a physician. And she’d been kind of hearing about my last year, you know, like, she’s, she’s lived it with me, she’s seen it.
And I distinctly remember talking to her, you know, your mountain biking, and you know, we’re climbing this mountain, and I said, you know, I’m going to interview for some pharma positions. And I think that I really am going to take this next step and leave clinical medicine.
And you know, the next day, we rode to someone else, and I’m like, gosh, I’ve been really tired. And she’s like, “Yeah, yesterday, she was talking about leaving clinical medicine, like, she must really be off.”
And I was, like, “I’m not kidding. Like, I’m really serious.” And, you know, she was very supportive. But you know, even after, like, I accepted the job and told her, like, it was like a week or two later, where I get this text from her. And she’s like, I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that you’re leaving clinical medicine.
And so I think that again, for some people, you know, once you’re a physician, like, it’s just not even something they can think about. And so it’s not really a disappointment, or anything, it’s just something that that can’t be considered, because we’re so used to being like, “Okay, a physician, a clinician, like, that’s what they do”. Right? That’s what they do until they retire.
Yeah. And, you know, it’s so interesting to me that that is, I think, most people think it’s probably how I thought for a long time, too. But when you take a step back, you realize that, you know, so yes, if you’re at the sharp end of the stick, so to speak, right?
You’re in the clinic, or in the operating room, in the hospital with patients. But every medicine that you use, and every technology that you use, or a diagnostic that you use. And, you know, in insurance that covers all of the different parts of the healthcare system, you know, love it or hate it in its totality, sort of a little bit of a monster in the United States.
But everywhere that everywhere that a physician or clinician in the clinical practice is interfacing. There are physicians on the other side of those things, trying to help, on a macroscale, make that effective for patients, right, bring that to its best value for patients to make it most helpful for physicians and other clinicians.
And so really, like the possibilities are all around us, and people are already doing them and their doctors at the FDA and doctors and government and doctors, there’s about doctors everywhere doing everything. Why do we think there’s no possibilities?
Yeah, I think it’s our limiting beliefs, right? It’s like, we just can’t see ourselves doing other things. And I’ve had conversations with, you know, some talented smart colleagues, and they, it’s just they can’t see it, they can’t see that they can actually do it.
And, you know, so I’m going to tell people listening to this today. Like if you’re thinking about doing something like Absolutely, there’s so many things you can do. You know, I think it’s important that You’re looking for the right reasons and very much not running away, but actually walking towards opportunities.
Yes. But if you’re in that mindset and truly ready, then walk with that fear and do it because yeah, I mean, there’s so many opportunities out there.
I love that, “walk with the fear.” I love it. So, I mean, this is this is fascinating, we’ve really crossed the gamut from like the beginning to think about transitioning out of clinical medicine to, you know, what does that mean to you to your identity, with the fear of the emotions that you feel, potentially the grieving process that you go through, and then what other people think and how they react to it, and what you think they’re going to think and how you react to that. And then, and then there’s just a whole world of possibilities.
And you and I obviously, both now have pharma careers. I do and you will in 90 days. But there are there, you know, scads of other possibilities, as I already really just mentioned. So I wonder, maybe you can comment on, what do you think, you know, what is that the feeling? Or the identity shift? Or a mindset shift that goes with getting over that hump and realizing there are those possibilities out there? And that you can do them?
Yeah, you know, one of the most powerful things that I actually did is I sat actually sat down with a coach who helps, you know, coach, you, you know, in that transition, because one of the things I realized I needed was a resume, and I’ve never had a resume a day in my life. Like, I didn’t even know that those existed.
Yeah, like I’ve had this CV from the time I was a medical student, right? So I was like, resume, physicians don’t do resumes. But you know, this was kind of like, right when I was like, “Okay, I’m serious enough.” Like, I’m willing, like, I wasn’t 100% there. But I’m like, Okay, I’m going to look like I’m going to look, I’m going to see what’s out there.
And you know, sitting down and really going through my CV and really going point by point and being and appreciating like what I’ve done and like what skills that I actually have, I think was so powerful for me, because we just go through and like yeah, that’s another line on the CV. Yeah, that’s another line on the CV. Yeah, that’s the line on the CV like, whatever, right?
Like, it doesn’t mean anything, but we have gained so many skills. But I think that it is it is in the mindset that you feel comfortable where you are, I think that you have to be at the point where you’re, you’re following your North Star, you know, Martha Beck talks about this North Star of, you know, when something feels right, like allowing yourself to follow it.
And so if you have a passion, you have a curiosity, like you really want to move forward. And again, you’re walking towards something, you can kind of like listen, like, like, tune out that other noise of like, “oh my god, what is my mom gonna think”, right? Or like, what’s my boss gonna think? What’s my colleague, my best friend, like, it doesn’t matter, because then you’re in a spot where you’re like, Okay, this is for me, and this is what I want to do.
And I’ve got to realize that I’m going to be uncomfortable sometimes. And that these are very much new opportunities. And, and you do it, like you commit to doing it, and then you recognize that you’re going to be like, Oh, my gosh, what am I doing? And it’s a different process, right? Like, you know, the interview process is different, you know, the recruitment, you know, how you hear back, like, everything is completely different.
And so, I think at each step, you have to say, like, this is an adventure like, this is, this is what I want to do, and I’m gonna keep following it. And yeah, kind of this is scary, and I’m uncomfortable. But I’m just going to keep doing it. Because this is where I want to go.
As far as like, what opportunities are out there. I think just networking and talking to other people. I think listening, you know, to your podcast, you know, there’s a couple others where, you know, people are interviewed doing different things, and, and just kind of educating yourself, you know, what else is out there?
You know, I think, again, you know, coaching can be important, where you, you really sit down with someone and kind of talk about like, what you like and what you don’t and what possibilities are out there. But it’s amazing that we’re such, you know, smart, sophisticated people and that we really, if we think about doing something besides clinical medicine, like we can’t even think about, like two other things that we could do.
And the reality, there’s so many so we’re you know, it’s remarkable, because, I mean, as you have probably seen no doubt, right? There is a fire burning through medicine of side gigs, right. So it seems some physicians can think of plenty to do as a side job, but they can’t really seem to think of what to do as a full time career focus.
But one of the things I think is a very fun challenge. So for anybody listening, go do this. You get on LinkedIn and you have it connected to your medical school or your versity your contacts, right so that your, your school if you put in a couple of those basics, you know, it will know where you went to school and when you tell it.
And if you go and look up the alumni, like the classmates that you’re no longer in touch with, you have no idea what they’re doing. scan that list, somebody is doing something other than taking care of patients in the clinic, and they’re probably doing something that sounds really, really cool.
And you can do, I would say to anybody who’s listening if you want, and by all means if you love it in the clinic, the hospital, please stay there and be an amazing physician because we need what we need that we need it all around at every table.
Yes, absolutely. Absolutely. I think the key is to do what makes you happy. Do what makes you passionate.
Yeah, yeah. And you know, that’s really simple. But I’m going to just dwell on it for a second. I think what’s really profound about that is that you’re talking about what you want to do, right. And medicine is very altruistic, it’s really a very, it’s a career that’s just filled with sacrifice, and putting others first, which is obviously very important, right, we have to take excellent care of our patients. But I think it is also fair, that you love what you’re doing, and that it continues to grow you and stretch you in the way that you want. And again, not everybody wants it in the same way. So that’s fine.
When you think about it, you absolutely deserve to do something that you love. So your career is not just about like, who will hire me and what can I do? But also like, what do I want to do? Because you can do it. So pick something you want to do, and can be more than one thing over your lifetime.
So Debbie, before we hang up, I want to just to give a second because not only do you have a wealth of personal life experience, and you’re going through some things right now, so you’re on a growth edge now too. But you are also an executive coach, can you take a couple of minutes to tell the audience about what kind of coaching you offer and maybe where they can find you?
Sure. So I am a certified executive coach. I coach physicians and my niche is working it with people who are in transition either within or out of clinical medicine. I also have a passion on working with patients and sorry, patients, I always say that it’s the natural right working with clients or their physicians on preventing and recovering from burnout.
And you know, the third area that I really like, is working on identity to identify as more than just a physician. So, you know, feel free to check out my website. It’s www.debbiebradleymd.com. And, you know, follow your passion. I like to say there’s one life, there’s one you.
I love it. Thank you so much. I know this episode is gonna be really valuable for a lot of people thinking and a lot of people who have been thinking and processing the same things that you’ve been talking about. What does it mean to leave clinical medicine? What will it mean for them? And is it a permanent meaning? I think that’s one of the big things. Thanks, Debbie so much for coming on the show.
Thank you for having me.
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