Are Doctors Trapped in Their Careers?

New AdventureDread lies beyond fear and hopelessness. When we see only the certainty of something worse, we sink into a malaise and dread impossible to shake.

Country singers sell songs about heartache and loss, but no one likes songs of foreboding or panic.

Doctors in Ontario need a reason to hope again. They feel desperate. They have been attacked and slandered by government for the last 5 years. Draconian legislation threatens professional autonomy with Bill 41 (nee Bill 210). Docs feel abandoned and do not know who to trust. A malaise rests on doctors as dark as the 1990’s social contract years.

Reason to Hope

Doctors might appear to have it all. Doctors were born with an ability to endure gruelling education, and they get to help people for a living. Doctors never starve to death; only a few go bankrupt. But happiness requires more than a job, good food and a decent car. It requires freedom, autonomy and the opportunity to try new things.

Doctors hold a unusually constrained view of the world. They function inside an artificial monopoly created by legislation. If doctors focus on what they cannot do, or what they are forced to do, doctors have solid reasons to despair. But it does not need to be this way. Most other professionals see a world filled with opportunity beyond their field of training.

Career Options

Malaise comes when we lose control – when we feel like we have no freedom to choose anything different. Dread disappears when we gain control – when we have options.

Here are some of the non-clinical jobs that doctors are doing right now, either in parallel to, or in the place of clinical work:

Management Consultant

Venture Capitalist

Financial Planner

Career Coach

Life Coach

IT Consultant

Medical Writer

Medical Advisers for Pharma, Cosmetic Industry, Film

Think Tank Expert

CEO of a Non-Profit Organization

Careers in Medical Associations:

Board Director

Senior Manager

Committee work

Practice Development Expert

Investment Club Manager


CME content creator

Media Consultant

Business Developer, e.g.,

3D Printing

Tobacco Replacement Products

Peer Assessor for Independent Medical Examinations

Careers with Regulatory Colleges:

Council Member

Peer Reviewer

Senior Management

Medical Legal Expert

Careers in Hospital Administration:

Chief of Department

Medical Program Director

VP Program (IT, Cancer Care, etc)

Chief of Staff

VP Medical


Careers in Government:




Provincial Insurance specialists


ADM Health

Minister of Health

Bright Future

Doctors face a world of opportunity. There are hundreds of rewarding jobs for physicians. It just takes work to find them.

We have a Non-Clinical Careers conference planned for 600 doctors on May 12-13th, at the Royal York Hotel in Toronto. Doctors will learn how other MDs found successful careers outside, or in parallel to, clinical care.

Opportunity always carries risk. If physicians will accept some risk, and perhaps a little discomfort, opportunity can lift the dread that comes from having no control of our situation.

Risk can lead to failure. We need personal resilience to deal with opportunities that fail.

Doctors who develop skills and experience outside of clinical care become better clinicians. They bring a broader understanding of life to the bedside. Our healthcare system desperately needs creative, innovative physicians willing to learn how to manage the system.

Smart, hard working people have bright futures. They have options. Doctors in Ontario need encouragement. They need to know that many industries would love to have them, if they are willing to try a new adventure. If nothing else, it might help lift the malaise.

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16 Replies to “Are Doctors Trapped in Their Careers?”

  1. Shawn,
    Thank you for bringing hope to a group of people where many are in despair.
    As you have seen in your FB post, you offer an opportunity for us to pursue a type of freedom and autonomy and respect that we cannot currently find in our medical world.
    This is about so much more than the money. I think many physicians still don’t even get that yet.

    1. Brilliant comment, Ken: “This is about so much more than money.”

      Well said. Patients need doctors who feel on the top of their game. Beaten down doctors cannot provide great care.

      Knowing that they have a choice, doctors will bring greater enthusiasm to the bedside.

      Thanks for taking time to share a comment!


  2. A medical degree imparts a great education even if one never practices as a physician. It is obvious that when you do something, Shawn, you embrace it and try to do it very well. I know you only by interactions on social media, a quick phone call and your book. This article shows another side of you: your bond, deep concern and fondness for your colleagues. I believe that is similar to what I have seen in soldier brothers-in-arms.

    1. Thank you, Gerry. I am passionate about improving the lives of physicians. Patients suffer when cared for by trapped, oppressed physicians. Doctors and patients benefit when doctors have freedom to go after all the opportunities life has to offer, and still choose to serve patients.

      I sure appreciate you taking time time to share a comment!

      Best regards,


    2. “A medical degree imparts a great education even if one never practices as a physician.” – This is so true, but unfortunately many times under-recognized.

      There is a plethora of guidance available for the avid student seeking to join the medical world, but an extreme poverty of information, support, encouragement and motivation available for the physician looking to leave medicine for a healthier, more well-balanced, fulfilling life.

  3. Thanks again, Shawn, for applying propositional vocabulary to a vague unease. It resonated with some recent thoughts of a physician’s world being constrained by true analyses and solutions for organic dysfunction, in contrast to a political administrator’s world of expediency and spin. I am experiencing some degree of “freedom and autonomy” by intentionally focusing on that physician’s world, with deliberate disregard for the other.

    1. Great point, Phil.

      We can choose to ignore the constraints around us. Or we can move to an area less encumbered by those constraints. Either way, patients benefit when cared for by free and enthusiastic physicians.

      Thanks for taking time to share a comment!!


  4. A doctor can co-own a pharmacy ( not where he / she prescribes nearby ) or a well ness centre or a independant health facility ….. All as businesses not as doctors . They can manage large group practices ( again not as a physician but as a skilled manager ) . They can manage and improve medical buildings . They can manage real estate portfolios . Can own and manage cosmetic clinics ( without necessarily working there ) , they can be involved in start up companies – be it private home health or Medical IT ..,, they came public speakers on cruise ships and other venues …..They can run a franchise …. Medical or non medical ( eg weight loss ) . The list is just some of the things I have been involved in or seen others close to me do .

    1. Brilliant list, Zoey!

      Wow. If you have done all of these, we should talk about you speaking at our conference!

      Best regards,


        1. I will send you an email. We need tonnes of experienced coaches and mentors, like you, to help out. And we will pay you, of course. 🙂

    1. I fear you are right, Paul. Many end up coming back to clinical care though

      Great to hear from you!

  5. Excellent article!

    Physicians have truly been indoctrinated to the “there is only medicine” belief. After all, we have spent countless number of years dedicated to our art (though it comes with a price of never ending examinations, CME’s, student-debt etc…), professed an oath and are literally the lifeline for some of our patients. We’ve even been told of the guilt we will carry if we change career – of “stealing” a seat in medical school when it could have gone to some more… deserving?!

    However, what many of us fail to realize is that there is more than one way to offer true patient-focused care – clinical medicine is not the be-all-and-end-all of your life as a doctor.

    I am a physician who exited the clinical arena early on: 8-minute consultations for adjusting patient Rx and sending them on their merry way was not my idea of true medicine. Preventative care buzzwords littered medical literature and lectures, but failed to make an impact in day-to-day care when patient clinics were overbooked and ran late into the night, no beds available on the wards to manage patients coming from the ER etc… The physicians are obviously not working at their optimum levels, and patients are not getting the time or individual focused attention needed to make an impact in their disease progression. We are excellent at managing medical crises, but it’s another story when trying to manage the mundane, preventative care.

    I then transitioned into the corporate world of public health insurance, where making a difference meant policies and procedures affecting thousands of patient lives at a time. It was an incredible time, but alas, bureaucracy is truly the killer of momentum, progress and improvement.

    I have now again made the exciting leap to entrepreneurship with wellness consulting and life coaching, and truly believe that I am making even more of a positive impact now on clients and physicians than I ever have before.

    I can certainly attest to the fact of what I mentioned above in another comment – there is a severe paucity of education, assistance and support for physicians who are frustrated, burnt-out and abused by the current medical system who want to explore other options. Who don’t want their MD to go to waste, who still want to care for patients in some capacity, but find that clinical medicine is slowly becoming an albatross around their neck. It was, and still is, a taboo subject and one that certainly needs to be brought to light. I am a strong advocate of alternative medical career discussions and coaching being offered in the clinical setting and even medical schools.

    1. Wow, great note, Kalila!

      You have some amazing experience. I will contact you by email to see if you might be interested in being part of our conference.

      Talk soon!


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