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Should I Stay or Should I Go? 10 Warning Signs That It May Be Time to Quit Your Job

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As the landscape of medicine rapidly changes and I'm dialoguing every day with doctors who are in the inquiry of where to next take their careers, one of the biggest questions to come up is, "Should I even be in this field of medicine anymore?"

With environments becoming more corporatized, and compensation decreasing with these arbitrary relative value unit structures, it's no wonder doctors are questioning their career choices. The conflict comes when so many of the physicians who are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed think it's time to quit medicine, yet they still love the clinical part. Over the years in my coaching practice, I've conversed with dozens of physicians who were thinking about leaving medicine. What I've found is that more often than not, it's the job environment that is the culprit.

Here are 10 warning signs I've come up with that signal it may be time to look for another job.

1. You constantly feel disrespected, disregarded, and unappreciated at your job. Sometimes when this is happening, we think it's our fault. Disrespect and disregard in the workplace is unacceptable behavior that you don't have to "suck it up" and take.
2. Your values are clearly not in line with the values of the practice or corporation you are working for. When our values are out of alignment (and especially if you suspect there is some unethical or illegal behavior), then it's time to look elsewhere.
3. You've tried talking to staff, management, and leadership to improve things but either no one is listening, or they are paying you lip service, and nothing is actually changing. This is likely a sign of the way things will continue to be, and unless there is an imminent change in leadership under way, you should seriously consider whether you want to stay.
4. You are being grossly underpaid as compared to colleagues in similar specialties (AND when you ask for a raise, you are blown off or held at bay). We often make excuses and justify why we are being underpaid. It's okay to ask for more money. It doesn't make you greedy.
5. Your job circumstance is significantly affecting your physical health and mental health, and no one seems to notice or care. If you are having health issues, and your organization is unconcerned, that's a big red flag. Take care of yourself first.
6. You dread going into the office on a regular basis. It would be wise to determine the underlying reason for this dread. If #3 also applies, it may be time to go.
7. Your workplace has no physician well-being programs in evolution or in place and is not even trying to show interest in this area. In this era of awareness around physician wellness, your organization should at least be talking about it. If they are not, it may be an indicator of their lack of value for the well-being and interest of their doctors.
8. You are experiencing workplace bullying or abuse. You do not have to accept unacceptable behavior. If no one is acknowledging or addressing this behavior in your organization (or worse, if they are condoning it), get out.
9. You are beginning to doubt yourself and your competence in that environment. If you are feeling incompetent, yet your patients love you, and there is no evidence that you are less than stellar in your work, you may not be a fit for this environment. Whether it's microaggressions over time or overt workplace bullying or abuse, if the data says you are performing well, but you are being made to feel otherwise, it may be time to move on.
10. You question your choice to even be in medicine and are considering jumping ship altogether. Before you jump ship, look at the root of why you are questioning remaining in medicine. If you still love clinical medicine, it may just be the job itself that's the problem, and finding something more ideal would have you feel good about your craft again.

These are just 10 warning signs, and there are likely others not covered here. The point is if you are experiencing one or more of these, it may be time to look for another career home. You don't necessarily have to quit medicine to have a fulfilling career that gives you the autonomy, connection, and flexibility that will allow you to take care of yourself, spend time with those you love, and feel like you are making a difference as a physician. However, if you are still questioning whether or not you should stay or go, read part two of this series: "4 Ways to Know It May Be Time for a Career Change".

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And if you’re thinking any of these false statements:


All jobs suck to some degree; that’s why they call it “work”

(Your’s can suck a whole lot worse than someone else’s!)


I can’t change jobs because of my family (or whatever)

(Your family will probably mirror your degree of happiness)


It’s just the way the company is; it will change “soon”

(Companies usually change very slowly compared to the length of your career)


No one else would hire me

(Oh yes they would!)


No one else would pay me this much

(First, you’d be surprised! Second, less money for a markedly better life can be a great trade-off)


No one else would give me the respect I want either

(You’ve played the whipped dog so long that you think that is what you deserve. It’s not!)


I need to hang on because of their retirement benefits

(You are earning those benefits with lost time and lost health)


In only xx years, I can retire

(...as a bitter, broken human being...)


Add your own false facts!


Life is too short to waste it in a toxic environment!



Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk


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This is a terrific post , Tom, and I was going to write an article along the same line a week ago but was not ready. I don't need to add my comments to the literature by writing another piece because this physician author has done a great job and all of what his being said is also for PAs. My wife sort of convinced me to leave a job in Urgent Care about eighteen months ago because of five of the ten reasons in this article. she told me that I was working in a "Toxic Environment" and should leave before I hurt my reputation by relationship to the employers. She was correct and I made another 40,000.00 less at a PT job but it was worth the financial loss as I still had my day job. When something affects your health, your morals, your opinion of yourself, etc, what else do you need to knock you on the head and convince you. this article is not just for those that are retiring soon but for all clinicians at any stage in their careers as to heed this advice is to expand your horizons for the future. Once again, thanks, Tom.

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Thanks for posting this article. It resonates a lot with me. 

I’m still on the hunt for job opportunities, as my position with my current practice has not changed. There is amount of guilt involved, because my supervising physician taught me so much, but his wife who is the office manager has caused so much distress in my life. It’s a poorly managed office and there have been times where I wanted to have a completely different career path because I felt so incompetent on the job (which is not the case at all). 

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