'I've Had It With Medicine!' 16 Options for Second Careers

Leigh Page


July 10, 2014

In This Article

1. Move Into Hospital Administration

Hospital administration is a long-standing option for physicians, and the opportunities are expanding as hospitals try to align more closely with their doctors. For a practicing physician who is no longer feeling challenged by patient care, here's 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, more key positions are opening up. These include chief operations officer; chief integration officer; chief administration officer; and chief strategy, innovation, or 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, and you'll run the risk of having some colleagues who won't view you as one of them anymore.

Philippa Kennealy, MD, became Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of UCLA Medical Center, Santa Monica, in California in the late 1990s. She took the traditional route -- serving on hospital committees in order to build her reputation. A practicing family physician, she initially volunteered for a 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 said. "I decided there was a lot more that I could contribute in administration." She initially left her practice in 1996 to become Hospital Medical Director before later becoming 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 said. On the other hand, "it's a tricky role, because there are physicians who think you've moved over to the dark side."

There are many opportunities for administrators these days. Eight in 10 healthcare organizations have at least one doctor in senior management, according to a 2010 survey.[4] However, whereas multihospital health systems and academic medical centers were most likely to have several physicians at the top, more than one half of community hospitals did not have any physicians in key roles.

As Dr. Kennealy has experienced, MD or DO leaders can bridge the gap between the administration and physicians, the hospital's most important resource. A 2011 survey[5] revealed that 56% of physicians on hospital staffs didn't trust the administration as partners because of a lack of physician leadership, and 50% cited too little communication with the administration.

Physician leadership is linked to the more highly regarded hospitals. A 2011 research study[6] 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.

At many hospitals, however, you won't be able to stop practicing altogether. A 2011 survey[7] found that more than two thirds of physician executives at hospitals continue to see patients, even if it's only half a day per week, and more than one half said it was a job requirement.

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

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


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