Physician Health

4 do’s and don’ts for a midcareer physician job change

Timothy M. Smith , Contributing News Writer

Changing jobs can be stressful, especially the further you get into your physician career. But to feel fulfilled, sometimes you have to take the plunge.

A Society of Critical Care Medicine podcast available on the AMA Ed Hub™ features some advice on the do’s and don’ts of a midcareer job change in health care.

Help Move Medicine

Medicine doesn’t stand still, and neither do we. AMA members don’t just keep up with medicine—they shape its future.

For years before Mojdeh Heavner, PharmD, made her own midcareer move, she had been teased by her friends and colleagues that she was considering a job change.

“And that’s probably true because my eyes were always open for that next opportunity,” Heavner said in the Society of Critical Care Medicine podcast. “But the ideal role really wasn’t available to me until essentially midcareer, when I felt like I actually was already very established in my career, professionally as well as personally.”

Before joining the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy as associate professor and vice chair for clinical services, Heavner was a clinical pharmacy specialist in the medical intensive care unit at Yale New Haven Hospital. Also at Yale, she directed the critical care pharmacy residency program and served for several years as the supervisor of clinical pharmacy services.

Despite working at an academic medical center, she didn’t have an official appointment at the school of pharmacy—something she wanted. So she began amassing the skills she thought would help her get one, particularly by focusing on administration.

The job change transformed her from “a pharmacist who worked in an academic medical center in an administrative role into a pharmacist working in an academic medical center in an academic role,” she said. “It is so interesting that the past experiences that you have, you really never know how they’re going to lend themselves as being stepping stones for your future.”

Given how momentous a midcareer job change can be, it’s important to do it the right way, Haevner advised. She recommended keeping an eye on these four do’s and don’ts.

It’s really important to be transparent and fairly honest with your employer,” explaining what went into your seeking a new opportunity, she said.

“A lot of times, if you’re transparent about those things and it’s something actually related to the job itself, a good employer potentially would be able to modify your role or add responsibilities in order to meet the needs and maybe you don’t need to make that job change.”

Start with what your employer requires. “But at the same time, you don’t want to give too much time,” Heavner said. “I actually did give a lot of time, perhaps because I was so transparent about my goals for this. But there’s a thought that if you give too much advance notice that you’re planning to leave, that things start getting stagnant and the dynamic starts to change.”

“Ultimately you have to do what’s right for you,” she said. “If you go back and you’re reflecting on all this and you decide you actually don’t want to make the job change, you’ve actually solidified your happiness and your security in your current role.”

“I think it’s a healthy thing to think about job change. I hope that, as a medical field, we can shift that mindset,” she said, adding that a job change doesn’t have to be something you consider only when you’re fed up in your current position.

“It’s absolutely almost frowned upon to move around and explore different angles, but I think it’s important that we’re open to it as a health care community, because I think it’s healthy and it gets people into the right roles that are a good fit for them,” she said.

The AMA has assembled a variety of resources to help physicians flourish in the employment setting, including a great collection to help you in understanding physician employment contracts.

Also, learn more about the AMA Young Physicians Section, which gives voice to, and advocates on, issues that affect physicians under 40 or within the first eight years of professional practice after their training as residents and fellows.