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Alternative Career Options for the Burned Out Physician

Alternative Career Choices for those in Medicine

The early morning hour was punctuated with a colleague’s text. We had worked in the same challenging emergency department for nearly 15 years. Every shift was a slog for survival.

He is a kind-hearted soul who seems to weather any storm with grace and an easy smile. The tone of the message suggested otherwise. I owed him a prompt call.

Now, after a move across the country, his dream job had crumbled beyond salvage. The twilight of his career was dawning. My friend wanted – needed help finding meaningful work that no longer sucked the light from his soul.

From an emergency medicine physician’s lens, the shift work and stress become exponentially more difficult as the years pass. Fortunately, technology has come to the rescue, providing ample opportunity to share one’s knowledge, expertise, and gifts with a broader audience while preserving health, sanity, and income.

In a candid conversation centered around his particular situation and desires, several viable options surfaced. He was happy at the prospect of continued contribution, a decent living, and maintaining a sense of dignity and purpose as he plotted out the remaining years of work.


A woman talking to a man on Zoom


Within the obstacle lies the opportunity. Covid has shown that health care has quickly shifted the virtual realm. A quick search will deliver numerous opportunities to participate in virtual visits. Telemedicine laws are evolving, and care can be provided by video, phone, or asynchronous communication. The hours are flexible, and the work generally pleasant. Patients are grateful for the ease of access and avoiding time in the waiting room. Options for contract work or full-time benefited employment are readily available. Current compensation ranges from $10-50 per encounter, depending on the organization.


A woman doctor writing


Creativity and effort determine the bar in this realm. Physicians are skilled communicators and have the talent to succeed in this type of work.

A few options:

  • Article creation for medical blogs
  • Patient education materials
  • Continuing education for healthcare practitioners
  • Review material and question sets for board examination
  • Video scriptwriting and review for a production
  • Product inserts
  • Literature review and research for product or supplements
  • Revision of existing protocols and guidelines


Consulting doctors speaking to each other


In a similar light, companies need medical input and oversight. The unique knowledge and experience of physicians are valuable in this realm.

Consider the following:

  • Start-up advising
  • Medical device research and design
  • Process/systems improvement
  • EMR/EHR implementation, modification, and efficiency
  • Medical oversight for TV/movies/documentaries


Two doctors consulting and coaching each other


Beyond professional schools and residency or fellowship, many online learning platforms are clamoring for quality health-related content.
Perhaps you have a passion outside of medicine to share with the world. The technology available allows quick creation of quality video courses that can be marketed to a global market.


  • Coursera
  • Tabletwise
  • Udemy
  • Teachable
  • Thinkific
  • And too many others to name


A man undergoing physical therapy for a disability

Disability Examinations

Certain specialties lend well to performing disability exams for insurance companies and law firms. In a similar light, life care planning is an area where physician consultation is essential.


Burned out physicians create a coaching plan


Analogous to teaching, many people desire a guided journey and accountability. Use your talents to transform someone’s life differently.

Option to consider:

  • Mindset
  • Weight loss
  • Biohacking
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Career transition


This is by no means an exhaustive list. Conferences such as SEAK and blogs like Doctors Crossing, Physician on Fire, KevinMD and deliver information to help physicians on their transformation journey.

As a former hockey player, I love the Wayne Gretzky analogy:

Skate where the puck is going to be, not where it was.

Apply the same strategy to wherever you are in your medical career. Times will change, technologies evolve. Position yourself to become future proof by iterating and reinventing yourself to stay on the leading edge of the curve.

It is through forward-thinking that opportunities will continue to present themselves.

**Editor’s Note** For more information on this topic, read the following article and check out the video below.


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About Mitchel Schwindt, MD

Dr. Mitchel Schwindt is a board-certified emergency medicine physician who practices in a variety of clinical settings. He completed his residency at Butterworth Hospital in Grand Rapids, Michigan. As part of Michigan State University, Butterworth was renamed Spectrum Health, and is one of the busiest level 1 emergency and trauma centers in the United States. He served as chief resident his final year. While there he was inducted into Alpha Omega Alpha, a prestigious medical honor society. He also devoted a significant amount of time working as a flight physician (helicopter) for an aeromedical company.

Dr. Schwindt has served on many committees and steering groups related to health care, quality and process improvement and was a former trauma program medical director. He serves as a volunteer physician for local sporting and martial arts events. He is a consultant and medical advisor to several dental groups and has developed protocols and policies related to medical issues in the dental practice.

Wellness and nutrition are a passionate interest for Dr. Schwindt. He writes extensively on the subject and has published several related books. He is a member of the A4M – The American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine and is currently pursing a functional and sports medicine fellowship.

In his free time, he enjoys competing in triathlons, skiing, water sports, time with family, foreign travel and pursuing entrepreneurial activities.

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