38,000 burned-out doctors desperate for new careers

“This strongly resembles what I imagine one’s first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting must be like,” wrote one doctor, after hearing numerous stories from other burned out health professionals. He’s one of the of the 38,000 members of the Drop Out Club (DOC), a website for frustrated physicians thinking about quitting medicine to get advice, make connections, and look for a job in a different field.

The popularity of DOC highlights how bad the problem of clinician dissatisfaction has gotten over the past decade. One doctor wrote that he found it “comforting, if not more than a little scary” that so many clinicians like him wanted to leave medicine.

“It’s more than a little scary how many clinicians want to leave medicine.”

A real sense of betrayal

Doctors on the site give various reasons for dropping out – stress, not enough work-life balance, too much paperwork, and dealing with lawsuits, just to name a few. While stress has arguably always been a part of being a doctor, many of these factors have gotten worse over the past few decades, leading more doctors to the tipping point.

As Vikas Saini and other Right Care Alliance members pointed out in their WBUR op-ed, electronic medical records sap physicians’ time and energy, at the expense of the doctor-patient relationship. Hospitals increasingly put pressure on physicians to see more and more patients to increase revenue. And every year there are more unnecessary quality measures and administrative requirements doctors have to take into account.

For doctors who find themselves on computers all day, filling out forms instead of helping patients, “there is a real sense of betrayal,” says Saini. “They feel this is not what they went into medicine to do.”

Tune in, don’t drop out

Having a forum like DOC where enervated doctors can feel less alone is valuable. But dropping out is just an escape from the problem; it doesn’t fix the problem. Can you imagine the impact it would have if the thousands of physicians who quit medicine joined together to turn the health care system into one they wanted to work in?

What if all the physicians who quit medicine joined together to change the health care system?

Clinicians who feel burned out, who feel cheated, who feel like they don’t want to be in medicine anymore – quitting is not the only option. You can join the many other clinicians and patients in the Right Care Alliance who are changing our broken health care system by listening, researching, organizing, and advocating. We can make the health care system better together, from the outside and the inside.