I was fed up of office politics. I was fed up of my whining colleagues. I was fed up of ungrateful patients. I was fed up of the long hours. I was fed up of the paperwork.
I was tired of seeing 30 patients a day file into my office like cattle. I was tired of patients complaining about the office wait time. I was tired of the clinic director saying that I needed to see even more patients and that my patient satisfaction scores had dipped. I was tired of being berated for ordering too many tests on patients and not finishing my notes sooner. I was tired of not getting a bonus because I spent too much time with my patients.
I wanted “an out” from the horrible drudgery of being a doctor.
I wanted to end the emotional pain.
I wanted to be free at last!
Being a doctor was like being in an abusive relationship and your partner keeps on beating you to a pulp over and over and over again.
So I left the clinical practice of medicine to build an online scrubs company.
And I regret my decision every day.
I hustled and hustled and, in less than a year-and-a-half, generated $167,000 in profits. Six months later I generated $290,000 in quarterly profits. I taught myself how to navigate digital marketing, Amazon, run an online store with minimal overhead.
This was the life. No clinic. No headaches. No more ungrateful supervisors, staff, and patients. No more calls on weekends.
I was initially enticed by the sexy world of digital entrepreneurship. As I expanded my brand and product line in the early days, I got approached by over a dozen investors. I felt more attractive in every way. I developed a cool swagger. I would hobnob with the forward-thinking business crowd–not the burned-out, cynical physician crowd. I had billion-dollar companies calling to do business with me. I could sip vodka with abandon at social events knowing that I wouldn’t have to do medical procedures that day.
I built a thriving company from scratch. I navigated the internet and ran the business essentially from home. Aaaaahhhhh the freedom.
Yes, you read it correctly…. Until……within one week, Amazon changed its algorithm, forcing me to lose 70% of my sales. Then the manager of my main suppliers passed away and their operation folded. Then my website got hacked and orders could not be processed. Then one of my competitors started trashing me on dozens of Amazon reviews and partner sites. Then two new well-funded competitors cropped up and devoured me by outspending me on Google Adwords.
The following year, total profits were $13,000. Then six months later, I was at a loss of $7,000 over a quarter.
So after just three and a half years, my scrubs company busted.
I hit rock bottom.
I had lost my physician job and my entrepreneurial venture was a flop.
Now I needed to find out another way to make money. How was I going to pay my bills or justify quitting my previous clinical job to employers?
So I continued to pursue gigs outside of clinical medicine.
I landed a prestigious job as the Chief Medical Officer at a healthcare startup company in New York. The company was growing quickly and just got an infusion of 10 million dollars. There was so much hype around the company and how it was poised to be “the next big thing.” Some of the most prominent investors bet on the success of this company.
The company began hemorrhaging money to stay afloat and there were not enough healthcare systems using the product to justify further rounds of funding. The venture failed within six months and I lost my job and all hope of cashing out my stock options.
Then I got a full-time job at a Venture Capital (VC) firm looking to invest in healthcare startups. My associates were complete pricks. They backstabbed me on a few deals and did whatever they could to make my life living hell. My closest friend, who was a partner at the firm, ended up dating my girlfriend behind my back. The partners couldn’t have cared less about the well-being of the entrepreneurs who pitched them every week, and they couldn’t have cared less about me. My colleagues constantly belittled me and criticized my judgement so they could look better in the boardroom. They were liars, cheats and screwed not just me but my beautiful girlfriend.
After I left the VC firm, I began interviewing for a bunch of physician jobs.
I got rejected from all of them. I could see the hiring managers’ look of disgust when they would review my resume. My ego was destroyed and I was lucky to have a psychiatrist friend from residency who kept me sane.
Tired of joining short-lived ventures and with no luck landing a physician job, I eventually had no choice but to bite the bullet and start my own medical practice.
I used my passion for digital marketing and networking and started to slowly build my own Internal Medicine practice. I didn’t look back.
I had no supervisor and I did not take insurance. Patients paid me cash up front and I limited the number of patients I saw every day.
I hadn’t realized how much I had truly missed caring for patients.
I also missed getting a steady, predictable six-figure income.
Building my own practice allowed me to form deep relationships with patients. I was able to take my time with them. I didn’t have people barking at me about the way I practiced medicine.
This was the answer.
Four years later, I have a busy practice and I take no insurance—not even Medicare.
Now, having built my own practice, I have the freedom to practice medicine on my own terms and on my own time.
I get to dictate how much I deserve to be compensated—not the insurance companies. My practice and my income are growing and I am close to generating a half a million dollars in profits this year. I don’t have to worry about getting hacked, changes in Amazon and Facebook algorithms, not getting a next round of funding, or lousy business partners cheating and stealing from me.
So if you are starting to have visions of quitting medicine, please think long and hard about the alternatives. I understand that there are probably a bunch of physicians who have left medicine who have made it big and are living a cushy life making millions running remote businesses while sipping margaritas in Cancun and working 4 hours a week.
However, I want to be brutally honest and share with you that–for some of us–the grass may not be greener outside of practicing medicine.
Surprisingly, colleagues with altruism and integrity–outside of hospitals and medical clinics–are a lot harder to find. Job stability outside of medicine is also much harder to find. It is highly likely that you will waste a lot more of your time searching for a totally different career path rather than simply finding a better way to reap the immense emotional and financial rewards of healing others and saving lives. Please think twice about quitting and interviewing for that flashy consulting, medical officer, tech, or VC job. Think twice about building that new online business that you think will take just 4 hours a week to run.
I strongly urge you to consider liberating yourself from all the supervisors and middlemen stripping the joy and humanity out of your physician job. There is hope. Please don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty and build a medical practice from scratch that you can be proud of and will enable you to practice medicine in a way that complements your skillset and enriches your heart and soul.
Dr. Rob Miller (The “Enlightened Internist”)
Dr. Rob Miller is a physician contributor to the DoctorCPR Physician Blog. Visit DoctorCPR.com today and discover why we are America’s #1 Site for Physician Jobs and Practice Resources