How to Navigate Your Physician Job Resignation

October 13, 2023 by
MedGeo Ventures, Lindsay Thomas
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Every year, approximately seven percent of physicians resign for a variety of reasons. They move to a new physician job with higher earning potential or for growth opportunities; they relocate to be closer to family; they accept a physician job with better hours or lower stress. Whatever the reason, physicians may struggle to tell their supervisor and peers of their decision during these times, as a physician vacancy can create more work and challenges for those remaining at the organization until a new physician is recruited in their place. 

Overall, the process of resigning can be awkward and difficult to navigate. As Vice President of Recruitment for Jackson Physician Search, Midwest Division, I often speak with physicians who have recently given notice or plan to resign as soon as they have an offer. The following are steps I always remind them to consider.

Know Your Physician Job Contract

First, know your obligations to your current employer. In fact, you should revisit your physician contract before you even begin looking for a new physician job. A strict non-compete clause or salary/bonus repayment requirements may significantly impact the geography or timeline of your physician job search. For example, I worked with one Gastroenterologist in St. Louis whose non-compete terms severely limited his options in the city. Yet, he was unwilling to relocate his young family. Because he knew the strict terms of his contract, we were able to think outside the box and find him an opportunity based in the satellite office of a St. Louis employer – just outside the non-compete radius. His employer was sorry to see him go but remained on good terms because he adhered to the contract. 

Another factor is the potential repayment of your guaranteed salary or bonus. The contract likely specifies that if physicians leave before working to meet the salary guarantee, they are responsible for paying some portion of it back. If you have not yet met these marks, you may want to consider holding off on your resignation.

Provide Ample Notice and Deliver the News In-Person 

Physicians should provide at least as much notice as their contracts require, but 90 days is best practice. Hiring a physician can take up to a year or longer, so the more notice you provide will help your current employer better prepare for your absence.

You will need to compose a letter of resignation that documents your decision to leave and your expected last day of employment. While this serves as your formal notice, it should be delivered in a face-to-face meeting with your supervisor after you verbally share the news. Disclose your decision respectfully and express gratitude for all you have learned from the opportunity. If asked, it is okay to be somewhat transparent about your reasons for leaving without becoming emotional or pointing fingers. Save the details for an exit interview and offer cooperation in whatever capacity is needed as you prepare for your departure.

Preserve Relationships

Ask your supervisor for guidance on how to share the news of your departure. He or she may want to make the announcement or leave it to you to deliver the news as you see fit. Make sure you also have clear direction on if and how to notify patients of your impending departure. Be careful not to ask or encourage patients to visit you at your new place of employment. Physicians will most likely be instructed not to disclose any information about the new employer. 

Other physicians and staff may have their own feelings about your resignation, but do your best to stay positive. Be cautious not to speak negatively about your current employer or dwell on your reasons for leaving. Ensure your peers know you have enjoyed working with them, and if desired, make a plan to stay in touch.

Continue to give 100% throughout your notice period, and make sure you are available to ease the transition process, whether training your replacement or providing your supervisor with a comprehensive list of your responsibilities. Your behavior in your final weeks of employment will be how you are remembered, so take care to do your best, be respectful, and preserve the relationships you have built.

Enjoy the Physician Job Journey

A physician’s career will likely involve several professional moves. While it can be challenging to move on, it is often a necessary step for job satisfaction and professional development. Your employer will likely be disappointed to learn of your decision to leave, but this doesn’t mean the bridge is burned. As long as you adhere to the terms of your contract, respectfully disclose the news, and remain helpful as you work out your notice period, you can move on with the knowledge that you have done everything in your power to leave on good terms, filled with gratitude for this step of your professional journey.

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