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Non-traditional jobs in Family Practice

November 20, 2009

I’m a Family Practice Resident. I do rotations in the hospital, but my home base is one of two local clinics. One of them is fairly full-service, with doctors who round at the hospital on inpatients, do Obstetrics, work in Palliative Care, run Smoking Cessation initiatives, and even a couple that pick up ER shifts in addition to regular clinic duties. The other has docs that round at the hospital, one who attends to several extended (nursing)-care homes, and another who works in a sexual health/youth clinic in addition to regular practice.

Now there's a non-clinical gig that I wouldn't mind!

I’m not convinced that I could handle just working in the office. I love hands on things (procedures). I like working in a team with nurses and other physician experts and it’s a struggle to enjoy the administrative side of being in an office sometimes. I’ve thought a lot about “non-traditional” avenues in medicine that play on my interests. As a Family Practice Resident, I’m to complete 2 years of training before I’m certified to practice independently. I can elect to do further training after, in the form of an “R3” year, where I’d keep my Resident status, paycheck, and formally be treated as a learner. Or, I could jump into clinical practice. The reason I originally chose Family Practice is that there are infinite career paths possible; it’s not uncommon to change one’s form of practice several times over the span of a career.

Many physicians are choosing alternative forms of practice in order to reduce their workload and stress, increase their financial well-being, and to do the kind of medicine that most satisfies them. Listed below are some of the options for those in Family Practice (or other specialities) besides regular office practice. I’m Canadian-izing a list originally made by Dr. Joseph Kim, who now maintains

PUBLIC HEALTH/GLOBAL HEALTH [often require a Master’s in Public Health]

  1. Medical Officer for a region – mainly public health, epidemiology, & government liaising
  2. Medical Officer with the World Health Organization or other International Aid groups
  3. Work with Doctors Without Borders (MSF) or a different global health initiative


  1. Cruise Ship Doctor
  2. Travel Clinic – advising patients pre-trip about vaccinations, anti-malarials, and other preparation measures for safe travel abroad
  3. Air Evacuation – work  indirectly for an insurance company, repatriating sick travellers
  4. High Altitude Medicine

MILITARY [see my previous post about joining the Canadian Forces]

  1. Join via the Reserves; all the action, but not many of the pay/training benefits
  2. Join fully; all the action, rank, pay, and training opportunities you could want, but at the price of a return-of-service commitment

SPECIAL PROCEDURES (in-office practice) – most of these can be undertaken after taking a short course

  1. Allergy Testing
  2. Cosmetic Procedures – cosmetic lasers, Botox injection
  3. Work Safe or Insurance (esp. Auto) patient assessment and management


  1. Obstetrics
  2. Emergency Medicine – may require an “R3” year or some other supplemental training
  3. Youth Health
  4. Palliative Care
  5. Geriatrics
  6. Sports Medicine – may include attending at sporting events like hockey games or car races
  7. First Nations Practice aka Aboriginal Health – this may involve travelling to remote reservations in order to deliver primary care
  8. Aviation or Dive Medicine – basically, you perform annual physical exams certifying people to do extreme things with their bodies, like flying aircraft


  1. Hospitalist – working as the doctor who takes care of admitted patients who don’t have GPs or whose GPs don’t have hospital privileges; this is a team-environment and will often involve consultation of specialists


  1. Become and administrator of a hospital or health regions
  2. Seek public office or a high-up position in a medical organization
  3. Work with the Foreign Service, assessing and treating diplomats and their staff overseas

JOURNALISM/WRITING – check out The Canadian chapter of the American Medical Writer’s Association for a start

  1. Write a book, fact or fiction
  2. Write a column for a newspaper or magazine
  3. Become part of the Editorial team for a medical journal
  4. Media consultant – TV/Film/journalism medical facts advisor

CONSULTING – might require an MBA

  1. Electronic Medical Records (EMR) or Personal Health Records (PHR) Development
  2. Private Health Systems or Pharmaceutical Industry
  3. Venture Capital
  4. Entrepreneur – marketing your own medical device or software, selling medical supplies, selling career advice (okay, what are you doing reading this blog post!), or any other business you can think of!
  5. Research


  1. Medical School Administration
  2. Professorship – most doctors do lots of clinical teaching, but only a handful become dedicated lecturers, anatomy teachers, and course coordinators

The American Academy of Family Physicians has their own list, with more thorough explanations, well worth the read. I especially like the sounds of “Resort Doctor,” though I haven’t met any in Canada yet! There is also a crazy-enormous list of non-clinical jobs at, but it is not at all specific to Family Practice, and it’ll take you a year to sift through all of those options.

While I’m figuring it out, I’ll probably do locum tenens in rural communities. Filling in for another doc is a great way to try out a style of practice, see how you’d want to run an office, and what types of patients you want to have. There are private companies that offer courses in finding a non-clinical job, but it really is all about the connections.

No matter what, you can’t escape that magical, oft-hated “networking” thing. Especially if you are like me, and don’t know what you want to be when you grow up.

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