As a dentist you always want to be relevant. If you find yourself facing a decision on an alternate career path due to injury, illness, or just plain lack of interest in clinical dentistry; get ready for some real soul-searching for answers. Dentists want to contribute and the reason they chose health care to begin with is readily apparent. Dentists want to be valued and be recognized for their sacrifices. We all want to be satisfied with our accomplishments, but staying involved and interacting with others is important to long-term survival and happiness.
So “what’s next?” you may ask yourself. Doing nothing is not an option. Whether it is a financial decision or a personal decision to continue to contribute; your physical health depends on being active and productive. It is a well-known medical fact that inactivity leads to a lower state of health for those who do not remain mental and physically active.
The first decision you will need to make in changing your career path is deciding if you really want to move on to an encore career. If you are disabled due to injury or illness this may be readily apparent. Sometimes not, and some practitioners may be able to continue to work; but at a slower pace or with a limited scope of practice. This is an intensely personal decision and you should involve your family/spouse in the process. The risk is waiting too long, and possibly endangering yourself or patients. Practices can lose value over time and some just slowly fade away. Take your time, but understand the risks of foolish delays.
An encore career is defined as work in the second half of life that combines continued income, increased personal meaning, and social impact. Each of these areas carries different weight for each individual. For some, the financial component is paramount; for others, the personal gratification of still contributing is the key issue. Once things become clearer in your mind, start making smart decisions on the route you will take.
Start listing goals and be realistic on your expectations. Dentists frequently migrate to fields directly related to health care. Whether you choose to volunteer , teach, or work in a consultant capacity; all are frequently tied to dentistry. Use your past experience to guide your decisions. “YOU ARE WHO YOU WERE”. A famous quote that defines the road traveled later in life. Now is the time to do what you always dreamed of! Don’t expect to be happy if returning to a working life is just a way to keep from being bored. See our posting on NETWORKING for dentists for ideas on how to get started. NETWORKING FOR DENTISTS
We have previously reviewed many different career alternatives for ill/sick/injured dentists. Take the time to carefully review what you want and compare that to what you need. Surprisingly, at least 15% of us return to the dental workforce even after routine retirements. It is a tribute to our ever proficient health care environment that dentists are still living and practicing longer than previous generations. Dentist are TYPE AA personalities, so don’t expect them to just stop on a dime. Continuing to test our mental capabilites has been part of our careers from the day we graduated dental school. We need encore careers whether we realise it or not.
Whether you call it phased retirement, an encore career, or a bridge job; retiring/disabled dentists will seek out new challenges and opportunities over 60% of the time. Some of us are just too ill or medically compromised to continue. Fortunately, even those practitioners will find some niche that allows them to continue to be valued and productive. The cold hard facts regarding your decision generally mean your accelerated demise if you avoid at least trying. We recently worked with a dentist in a wheelchair with severe MS. His first question to us was“how can I help you”. What a story!!! If only all of had such determination.
If you find yourself adrift and possibly paralyzed with fear, you are not alone. Starting over is scary and not without risks. The good thing is that you are not the first or the last to meet this challenge. Others have not only survived, but thrived after their encounter with addiction, mental illness, severe accidents, and catastrophic illnesses. Second careers are becoming increasingly common. For the general public, economic reasons are frequently cited as the primary reason. Unfortunately dentistry appears to be headed in the same direction. Make good financial and personal decisions now to avoid this most unpleasant outcome. NO ONE WANTS TO DIE WITH A DENTAL HANDPIECE IN THEIR HAND.
If you are newly disabled, see our posting on the ten steps to survive disability.TEN STEPS TO SURVIVE DISABILITY This will get you started, and hopefully give you encouragement and inspire you to make good decisions on your future. So go ahead and get onstage for that one final act!! “ENCORE! ENCORE!”
WE ARE DENTISTS HELPING OTHER SICK AND INJURED DENTISTS, WE CARE.