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A Physician’s Guide to Leaving or Quitting Your Job

The days in medicine where a physician started at one job after finishing training and then stayed there for the rest of their career are fading. Both anecdotally and statistically, we see an increasing percentage of doctors leaving or quitting jobs (or unfortunately, being terminated), and switching to new positions. This is particularly true in the early portion of the physician career, where it has been cited that as high as 50-70% of physicians switch jobs within the first five years of practice. Therefore, we regularly see questions on our online physician communities about what the best way to give notice is, what doctors should make sure to do before telling their employers they are quitting, and what to obtain from their jobs before leaving their current position for a new one. We’ll do a deep dive into these topics below, and go over what to consider when giving notice, what records to collect, and other things to do and know before leaving your current clinical physician job based on the experiences of our physician members.


Disclaimer: Please do your own due diligence before making decisions based on this page. Nothing on this page constitutes formal or personalized legal advice. Laws vary based on location and while this information is accurate to the best of our knowledge, may not be up to date or apply in your location.  We are not formal financial, legal, or otherwise licensed professionals, and you should consult these as appropriate. To learn more, visit our disclaimers and disclosures.


What physicians should obtain before leaving their clinical job


Quick Links




Consider Why You’re Leaving Your Physician Job


There are many reasons for leaving a clinical position. You may:

  • Want to change practice setting

  • Relocate to a different city

  • Need a better work/life balance

  • Be burnt out from dealing with the administration at your current job

  • Feel undervalued and/or underpaid where you are

  • Have been terminated from your last position


Before putting in your notice, take a step back and think about your situation. What is it that you don’t like about this position, and what do you need changed to increase your career longevity or job satisfaction? Are there opportunities to work at the same institution but change your job responsibilities? In this case, if you have a good relationship with your employer, consider sitting down and having an honest conversation about what you want, and see if there’s a way to accommodate your desired job. 


If not, make a list of the traits your ideal next job will have. This will help narrow your physician job search as you look for another opportunity. If you’re thinking about leaving medicine altogether, please read our what to consider before leaving clinical medicine page first. It may just be that you need something different, but not a non-clinical career.


Find a New Job or Have a Plan Before You Give Your Notice


A few quick tips for the job search:

  • Review the noncompete clause in your employment agreement, and consider consulting an employment attorney to go over your options if you think the noncompete will limit your options.

  • Create or update your CV, resume, and LinkedIn profile to help learn about clinical and nonclinical opportunities

  • Reach out to your medical school, residency, and/or fellowship colleagues and mentors to let them know you’re thinking about a change and see if they know of any word of mouth opportunities

  • Visit our job board to look for positions in your area

  • Explore our physician career hub for all our job hunt resources such as tips for negotiating your next physician contract and our physician compensation data

  • If you don’t want your current job to know that you’re searching, make sure the practices or employers that you speak to know this, so they don’t inadvertently reach out to your current place of employment to ask for references, etc.

  • Interview for multiple positions to get a sense of your options


If you are financially independent or financially stable, you may be able to make the leap before lining something else up, but before you put in your notice, ensure that you have enough money in your emergency fund to get you through a transition. If you’re planning to relocate, ensure that you account for differences in cost of living in your budget, as well as the costs of health insurance or any other benefits that are normally paid for by your employer.



Before you sign your next employment contract, review our contract negotiations primer to help point out contract red flags and to know what parts of your contract to make sure are implicitly stated and negotiated. Always have a contract attorney specialized in physician employment agreements review your new contract or LOI.


Giving Notice When Quitting or Leaving a Clinical Job


When it’s time to go, we often see questions on how to give notice that you’re planning on leaving. 


Checklist of things to remember when giving notice when quitting or leaving a clinical job

Check the Termination Clause of Your Physician Employment Contract


First, check the termination clauses of the employment contract that you signed. This will contain the information you need to determine how much notice you will need to give, and what the consequences of terminating the contract agreement will be, including what the noncompete clause is and whether or not you will have to pay for tail insurance. Figure out if you have to repay a signing or relocation bonus or student loan repayment, and what happens to productivity or other bonuses you’re eligible for once you give notice. Check your benefits to see what your vesting period for your matching retirement funds is. These may all affect the timing of your exit, or how you plan your exit and job search, as it would be awful and expensive to leave two months before your retirement benefits are fully vested.


If there is any dispute about these things, you plan on contesting your noncompete, or if you already have another position lined up and need to start before your required notice period, consider reaching out to a physician contract review attorney to determine the implications of breaking the contract. Of course, if you are leaving on friendly terms with the administration, also consider asking them for an exception to the rules.


If you don’t have specifics of the required notice period stated in your contract, there may be a typical policy in place within your healthcare system. Your human resources department will likely have this information. While it may tip your hand to ask directly, see if you can find it within the resources available to you online, in your employee handbook, or in other company documents.


If you don’t have a stated notice requirement, several factors can determine how much notice you may choose to give. Consider:

  • Will the departure be amicable?

  • Is management likely to make work more difficult for you when you put your notice in?

  • Are there requirements in your state for giving patients notice to avoid patient abandonment issues?

  • Can you afford to float the gap if your employer asks you to leave earlier than you plan?

  • Is there anything that would make you stay? Be prepared with your answer in case they ask you this.


If you’re anticipating your notice will not be well received and/or you anticipate retaliation, you may want to give the least amount of notice possible. Before deciding, check with your state’s medical board. Different states may have different requirements for patient notification. Some states may not have set requirements, but can offer guidelines on a recommended notice time frame.


While you’re under no obligation to help fill the gap until your employer finds a replacement, if you’re leaving under good terms and would like to maintain a good reputation with the system, consider how much time you can likely give to the transition. Healthcare systems in large metropolitan areas like NYC may find it easy to replace a family medicine physician, while a rural hospital may take a while to find a replacement for a urologist. The physician world can feel small very quickly, so try not to burn bridges if you don’t have to.


Use Up Your Vacation, Sick Days, CME Funds and Days, FSAs, and Optimize Your Finances


If vacation and/or personal time aren’t paid out per your employment agreement, consider using up as much as possible before putting in your notice, depending on how much time you have before starting your next position. Check how much you have remaining in CME funds or CME time as well if you’re planning a departure, and consider using them prior to giving notice as well. Do the same with your FSA money. The ability to use these things has a strange tendency to disappear once notice has been given.


If there are any retirement accounts you want to max out because you won’t have access to retirement accounts at your new job (for example, many jobs have a 1 year employment period before you’re eligible to put money in a 401k) , plan accordingly to contribute extra from your last few paychecks. 


Be Prepared to Leave Immediately


Always be prepared to leave sooner rather than later once you’ve given your notice. Your employer may ask you to leave sooner, or in some cases even terminate your employment agreement immediately.


In an ideal situation, make sure that your contract at the new position has been signed before giving your notice, so if there was any plan to sabotage your next move by the employer, that power is taken away.



What to Gather Before Quitting a Clinical Job


You’ve decided to leave, you’ve given your notice, you’ve made sure you’ve signed all of your outstanding charts so they don’t withhold your paychecks or worse… now what?


Changing jobs can be a huge stressor, especially if you’ve been in your current position for years. Physicians aren’t always sure what to make sure they obtain before leaving a current position for a new one. Scrambling at the last second can cause you to overlook important information, so we’ve compiled a checklist based on recommendations from our physician online community members.


Malpractice Insurance Face Sheet


When leaving a position, it’s important to know if you require tail coverage for your malpractice insurance policy. Get a copy of the face sheet that overviews the policy coverages. 


If you had an occurrence based malpractice policy, you won’t need tail insurance, but if you have a claims based policy, you or your current employer will need to buy tail insurance or you will have to ask your future employer if they can provide nose coverage. 


If the burden falls on you to buy a very expensive tail insurance policy, consider a stand alone tail (SAT) policy to protect yourself. It can be expense to obtain, but far cheaper than a lawsuit. A tail insurance policy typically needs to be bought within 1-2 months of leaving your job, so the earlier you look into coverage options and necessity, the better.



No Issues Letter from HR


Before you leave your current position, obtain a letter from your human resources department that states there was no professional misconduct, medical misconduct, or malpractice issues during your employment.


While working with human resources to get this letter, ask for the best point of contact and save their contact information in case you have any questions or issues that arise once you’ve left and no longer have access to the institution’s employee directory.


Patient Encounter and Procedure Logs


You may need to provide records of your patient encounter and procedure logs when credentialing at other institutions in the future. If you wait until you no longer work at the facility to reach out and try to obtain them, it can be extremely difficult. Take the time now to get these records in order, then organize and store them somewhere safe.


This may be found through your healthcare system’s credentialing office.


Also try and get a copy of your RVU logs and any billing information, in case there is an issue with accounts receivable after you leave.


Dictation Templates/Macros and Preference Cards


One of the most referenced recommendations from our physician members was to remember to get a copy of all your templates and smart phrases. If you’re a physician that does a lot of dictation or uses a lot of macros, make sure that you copy these over so that you can use them at your next position.


If you’re a surgeon, make sure you also get your preference cards and records of settings and equipment, such as:

  • The names of the instruments

  • Sutures with needle sizes and type of material

  • Any machine settings you may need (for lasers, etc.)


CME Certificates & Renewal Reminders


If you track your CME certificates and CME reminders through work, make sure you get a copy of these records before you leave. You will need this not just for your future CME records and licensing, but potentially for your future group’s records, credentialing, etc.


If you don’t have one already, make a record somewhere of:

  • The course you took

  • The number of credits you received

  • Who presented it

  • The location of the course


If you are receiving CME credits through a program such as UpToDate which you only have access to through your institution, make sure you claim those credits and print the records. By the way, if you’ll need a new UpToDate account, visit our perks and discounts resources page for the latest PSG member perks for UpToDate subscriptions.


References and Contact Information


If you may want to use a coworker as a reference, request the reference ahead of time. Make sure you have their non-work contact information so that you can reach out to them outside of your work email.


Even if you don’t need a reference but want to stay in touch for networking or to grab coffee on an off day and catch up, make sure you have their contact information saved before your last day.


Outside of colleagues, consider personnel within your healthcare system you might need to reach out to during or after your transition. As mentioned above, have information for your best point of contact in the human resources department. Also consider contacts in payroll and risk management.


Any Important Communications and Files


Before you leave, check your work email for any important correspondence and/or logins that you have used your work email for that you will need to continue after you leave. Update your login or contact information with any services or vendors (such as license/DEA management and reminders, CAQ logins for credentialing, etc.) you will need after you leave.


Forward to your non-work email an important information you may need later.


Clear your work computer of anything and everything personal before your last day. Download anything you might need, such as copies of lectures, teaching files, presentation PowerPoints, bookmarks for links you use frequently, etc.


Check your employment agreement and see if there are any terms about whether you are allowed to take patients with you to your new place of work (or even your favorite staff). If so, you should come up with a game plan for how to notify them of where you’re going.


Just make sure you aren’t violating any privacy agreements or non-solicitation clauses as you sort and save the above information. 


Immunization Records


If you don’t have them elsewhere in your personal files, get a copy of your immunization records before you leave.



Conclusion


Physicians may have more options than they think when quitting a clinical job. Options give you time to make the best situation for yourself and your family. By making a plan ahead of time, you can save yourself from a lot of additional stress in what is already a large transitionary period. You can also save time trying to track down important records you need after the fact.


We hope the guidelines above help you with a smooth transition. If you still have questions about moving forward with the next step in your career, visit our physician career page, or ask the hive mind in our physician Facebook groups.


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