No matter where you are in your medical career, you can always find opportunities for growth and development. Whether you’re just coming out of residency, inching your way toward retirement, or somewhere in between, there are countless ways to gain new experiences and stand out in your field. If you’re interested in broadening your horizons and tackling new challenges, here are five physician growth opportunities every doctor should consider.
1. Volunteer at a free clinic
Free and charitable clinics across the country depend on medical volunteers to provide much-needed care to the uninsured. If you have the time and inclination to participate in a potentially rewarding and resume-building experience, contact your local clinic to see what volunteer opportunities are available.
Internal medicine physician Dr. Bob Sayson first volunteered in community health events in his home community of Portland, Oregon, and now volunteers full time at the Good News Clinic, which serves refugees, immigrants, and displaced residents who don’t have health insurance. He believes his efforts benefit all. “It’s not just about the health of the individual but the health of the community,” he says.
If you’re interested in stepping in to help at clinics with different patient populations, perhaps farther from home, you can search for a clinic through the National Association of Free & Charitable Clinics.
2. Go on a medical mission
If you want to volunteer your services in new and varied locations, medical missions may suit you well. You can join healthcare providers around the world who donate their time and expertise by providing care to patients in developing nations.
Dr. Jane Park, an internal medicine-pediatrics physician, has served humanitarian missions in Kenya, the Peruvian Andes, and Cameroon. She feels the international experience has helped her become a better doctor. “I think physicians are more effective if they’re able to think on a bigger scene,” she says. “Being part of the global community and sharing what I’ve learned has been my objective in my career, and I hope I can be useful.”
Dr. Park admits she also enjoys medical missions on a personal level. “It’s selfish too. I really love seeing life in a different setting,” she says. “I love learning the cultural aspects, and it’s just nice when you can combine the travel with trying to contribute something.”
Pediatric surgeon Dr. Julie Long has also served several medical missions — and she’s been able to do so thanks to her locum tenens work with Weatherby. “I wanted the flexibility to do some mission work and I didn’t have that in my other job, so [locums] gives me that flexibility,” she says.
Since transitioning to locums work, Dr. Long has done several missions in Africa and South America. “I wasn’t ever sure that I would get to go on even one mission trip, so I’ve been really happy I’ve been able to do [several],” she says.
Make a difference: Two physicians give back around the world
3. Serve on a committee
Another way to make a difference is to join a committee within your physician association. Getting involved in this manner can not only benefit your professional society but can help further your career as well. As an effective committee member who takes his or her service seriously and consistently acts in the best interests of the organization, you can make a lasting impression on new and potentially valuable connections.
Most physician specialty associations have information on their websites about available committees and how you can join. You can also contact their member services to express an interest in volunteering.
4. Earn an additional certification
If you’re feeling bored or unsatisfied at work, it’s never too late to make a change. Perhaps you’ve grown to enjoy diagnostic challenges more than urgent care or preventive health. Maybe you find yourself more excited by emergent care than long-term treatment of chronic illnesses.
In any case, you can always think about working toward an additional certification. Although this will likely be a major undertaking requiring a significant time commitment, the long-term professional and personal gratification may prove invaluable.
After being board certified as an OB/GYN, Dr. Bassam Rimawi decided to continue his training and return for a second fellowship in reproductive infectious diseases and maternal fetal medicine because of his interest in high-risk obstetrics.
One of the unique cases that led him down this career path involved a woman who had a serious infection in her uterus. “She was pretty much in the intensive care unit dying,” Dr. Rimawi recalls. “Her husband came up to me and held my hand and said, ‘We have eight other kids at home. Please help her. I don’t have much money, but I’ll get you whatever you want, just save my wife.’ I told him, ‘Sir, I’m going to do everything I can, I promise — as if this was my own wife, as if this was my own mother.’ She required a hysterectomy to save her life and went home four days later, smiling, happy, thankful as ever just to go ahead.”
5. Work locum tenens
Taking locum tenens jobs can help your professional growth and development in many ways. Working in different settings allows you to experience new ways of practicing medicine and develop your clinical skills.
Dr. Nicholas Kusnezov, an orthopedic surgeon, says having the opportunity to discuss unfamiliar or complex cases with other physicians allows him to benefit from their insights and perspectives. “It is easy to get comfortable and soft while practicing in the same day-to-day environment,” he says. “However, working potentially at a variety of different and unfamiliar locations with different medical staff and medical record systems will keep you fresh and adaptable.”
Learn more: The pros and cons of locum tenens
Dr. Alison Miller enjoys supplementing her full-time job at a pediatric critical care unit by taking shifts at a busy children’s hospital. “It offered me more of that clinical acuity and also just a busier patient care service,” she says. “I’ve always known the benefit of training in multiple places and seeing different units. Learning how different people approach the same type of diagnosis or therapy — I think it helps to bring those things back to the place that you work full time.”
Providers who choose locum tenens as their primary employment often find they have more time and schedule flexibility to pursue other ventures, like volunteering or serving on a committee.
Whether you’re looking to continue your training or enhance your CV, these physician growth opportunities are great ways to increase your knowledge and find greater satisfaction in your career.