I am happy to report that I am back in general internal medicine practice, outpatient only, 3 days per week. (I had the option of starting back full-time, but decided, after consulting with another reentry physician, to start back part-time. This has turned out to be the right decision for me.)
Reentry into medicine took 27 months. It cost $40,000 (plus 27 months of living expenses). That was 9 months longer and $10,000 more than I had estimated at the beginning. The state of my finances required that I sell my house, accept a short-term loan from a family member, go on Medicaid: none of which I had anticipated prior and none of which I particularly wanted to do.
For 27 months, reentry was my unpaid full-time job. It's fair to say I am somewhat familiar with the process now. This blog ought to give other reentering clinicians at least an idea of what this particular roller-coaster ride is shaped like. But there are no guarantees of success with it, and I am afraid it feels ultra-precarious the whole way back.
There are so many people to whom I owe thanks. This accomplishment really does not belong to me. I could not have made this journey without the folks at home who believed in me, strangers who took time to listen and give advice, the many who gave me online publicity, made phone calls and wrote e-mails or letters on my behalf, spoke to colleagues on my behalf, made introductions for me, etc.
For other reentering clinicians, I cannot stress enough the importance of asking lots of questions, making connections, and letting absolutely everyone in your world know about what you are doing. The contact which led to my eventual employment was given to me by my optometrist, who of course had heard all about my reentry journey during my annual eye exams for the past 2 years. Like I said: make sure you tell everyone. Your acquaintances cannot help you if they do not know your situation. You never know who might know of someone who is in a position to assist you.
You might even throw yourself on the mercy of the Internet and start a reentry blog.
Even though my reentry journey seems to be complete at the moment, I plan on leaving this blog up as an informational resource as well as remaining available to answer e-mail. At some point in the future, I may have to generate a final "summing-up" post, but as always I welcome all civil comments, inquiries and e-mails.
Last year, while I was in the midst of clinical retraining, I had the opportunity to "present" my post-reentry job-interviewing persona to a sympathetic-yet-worldly female colleague in a mock interview situation. Her assessment: "You need help."
This very blunt piece of advice was spot-on. What she meant by it was that my interview persona was not where it needed to be to compete in the current marketplace. I had a tendency to come across as apologetic and overly self-effacing. I got bogged down in my reentry story and had difficulty getting back to my main talking points. In short, I could not sum myself up into a nice, neat package. I needed a script. I needed to be (so help me God) a brand, to use the modern parlance.
Enter my career coach, who was recommended to me by yet another female colleague.
For $475, the coach met with me on several occasions over 3 months. She whipped my CV into shape. She forced me to speak to my pre-determined points and not ramble. She videotaped me. She gave wardrobe advice. At the end of the process, I felt as if I'd been through job-interview boot camp. I was definitely more squared-away and ready to face the job market. With 20/20 hindsight, I realized that I ought to have engaged such a coach from the very beginning of the reentry process, not least because she was an ally and a psychological boon.
Bottom line: if you are a reentering physician, and especially if you have been out of the work force for a while (or working from home), strongly consider using a coach to help guide your career back onto track. This is one reentry expense that ended up being well worth it.
I know, I know: it's been months since I've posted anything about my reentry. Actually, I have nothing definite to report at the moment, though there is much in process. My live blog is lagging a bit, just as a chest x-ray sometimes does.
My next post will be about working with a career coach, which is something I now highly recommend to all reentering physicians.
I had word from the state board today that my reentry license has been converted from reentry status to regular active. This is very good news!
It should be noted it has been 21 months since I quit my day job to pursue reentry. At this point, I have spent 30K purely on reentry costs (not including 21 months of living expenses).
I cannot believe this is my first post of 2015, but I do like to be able to tell of tasks accomplished. Today I had word from my reentry program that I have completed my educational requirements and can make application to the state board to have my reentry license converted. So all told I spent 8 months doing clinical retraining, the first 2 of which I spent purely shadowing my preceptor such that she could get to know me. The clinical experience certainly refreshed my knowledge and revived old reflexes which had not been brought into consciousness for a long while. But at the end of it, I know that I am still a good clinician and I feel fully ready to start investigating the job market for outpatient internal medicine. It should be noted it has been 20 months exactly since I quit my day job to pursue reentry.
So a full year has passed since I started this blog. I have not succeeded in reentering medicine yet, and the path ahead remains unclear. When will the powers-that-be judge my retraining phase to be complete? What does the next phase consist of? At what point will I be able to apply to have my reentry license converted to a regular one? Who, if anyone, will be interested in hiring me going forward?
What have I accomplished since last December? Studied for and passed the ABIM maintenance of certification examination. Located a willing preceptor and started clinical retraining in the outpatient primary care setting (ongoing). Met 7 other reentry physicians, either by phone or online. Spoke to dozens of people about reentry, ranging from department chairs to recruiters to online reporters and editors to the ladies who run iRelaunch. Reconnected with old colleagues from back in the day. Just sold my house as well, and this will allow me to continue to finance this prolonged period of unemployment while I retrain.
I wonder where I shall be with this whole process in a year from now? Stay tuned...
It occurred to me the other day that I have not yet pointed up the necessity for the reentering physician to document the hell out of everything related to reentry. I have found stringent documenting to be necessary not only because it is a requirement of my particular reentry program, but also in order to keep track of the myriad people and places and things I have dealt with, phone calls I have made, courses I have attended, items I have purchased, etc.
Quite early on in the reentry process, I realized that an Excel spreadsheet just was not going to cut it in terms of keeping track of the big picture, though I do use spreadsheets quite liberally for sub-lists, especially for keeping track of expenses, as well as for logs of cases seen and articles read.
I have been using Mindvisualizer software to create mindmaps for reentry. I have one big overall map titled "Reentry" which contains pretty much every item of information. At this point, this map has become fairly complex, with long chains of events and linking arrows between various items. If you are a visual person, you might find a mindmap more useful than just a plain list or spreadsheet.
I make ample use of my old Ta-da List for short-term day-to-day list items. Though this software is apparently no longer available, there are now many free listing apps to choose from.
For keeping up with the didactic/educational part of my reentry plan, The Outliner of Giants has been vital. My particular reentry plan requires me to generate written summaries on various medical topics, and I have found that the cloud-based outline format is a superior way to do this. Far better than trying to produce a complex structured outline with Word, which messes up the formatting each time a new item is added. TOOG is free for up to 10 outlines, but in my opinion is well worth the $10 annually for a subscription allowing unlimited outlines. I can see myself using this software in the future for items other than reentry, because it is just that good.
Another software subscription in my reentry repertoire is Shorthand for Windows, currently version 10. Shorthand is great if you are doing a lot of typing for any reason, medical or not. I have found it helpful for making my reentry documenting, outlining, and e-mailing more efficient. "tp" expands to "The patient"; "ye" becomes "yesterday"; "mvp" is "mitral valve prolapse". (Amazingly, I cannot use this software when typing narrative into an EHR. My guess is that the EHR vendors don't particularly care whether physicians have the ability to input the information efficiently or not? That certainly seems to be the case with the system I am using right now.) Anyway, a Shorthand subscription costs $29.95 per year and I have personally found the software to be well worth that price.