Surgeons share personal and professional experiences for transitioning back to clinical practices

John S. Minasi, MD, FACS
John S. Minasi, MD, FACS

What are the challenges of transitioning to a clinical role after time away, whether due to personal/family health leave, burnout, impairment, or a career change?

Not wanting to pass on career opportunities, John S. Minasi, MD, FACS, general surgeon, Greenville, SC, made the decision in 2001 to transition from active surgery in Virginia to become a chief scientific officer for a start-up medical device company in Florida.

Dr. Minasi’s plan was to maintain his medical licenses and Continuing Medical Education and also practice locum tenens surgery to maintain his skills, but fate had other plans. After the start-up company lost funding in 2011, Dr. Minasi, with the help of his friend Bruce Schirmer, MD, FACS, returned to active surgery successfully. Although it was difficult, Dr. Minasi has no regrets about the path he chose, but he offers this advice to others considering a similar career move: “I hope you have a plan.”

Dr. Minasi shared his experiences in Transitioning Back into Clinical Practice: What Every Surgeon Should Know, a Monday, October 5, panel session, which will be available for on-demand viewing through the virtual Clinical Congress meeting platform through December 31.

Jo Buyske, MD, FACS, President and CEO, American Board of Surgery (ABS), discussed her re-entry into surgery from an ABS perspective. Dr. Buyske surveyed ABS members and developed re-entry to clinical practice guidelines based on the responses. Dr. Buyske recommends four ways to make re-entry easier if you are planning on stepping away from clinical practice: continue to renew your medical license; maintain your board certification; continue to participate in CME and other related training; and stay in touch with old colleagues. “If you can stay in touch with the field, it’ll be significantly easier to find someone to champion you,” Dr. Buyske said.

Barbara Lee Bass, MD, FACS, the John F., Jr. and Carolyn Bookout Distinguished Presidential Endowed Chair, department of surgery, Houston Methodist Institute for Academic Medicine and Weill Cornell Medicine, encourages anyone stepping away from clinical practice to “set realistic goals based on the facts that you are facing.” These facts include how long you’ve been away, understanding why you’ve stepped away in the first place, and evaluating yourself on your fundamental fitness and dexterity.

“Ask a trusted colleague to really give you an honest appraisal as to what they think your opportunity is in terms of optimizing your re-entry into the surgical practice domain,” she recommends. Dr. Bass also encourages finding retooling options, which include fellowship and ACS Mastery in General Surgery Program training.

Above all, she encourages those re-entering clinical practice to take care of themselves during the re-entry journey. “Be aware of the stress you will endure and ask for help along the way.”

Margaret C. Tracci, MD, JD, FACS, vice-president, clinical staff, and chair, credentials committee, University of Virginia, focused her presentation on credentialing and administrative challenges during re-entry. Most hospitals require evidence of liability coverage, she explained, and warns that it “can certainly be a stumbling block.”

Insurers also are typically hesitant to issue coverage to providers who have been out of practice and will often ask why you were out of practice, whether you require retraining, and whether you require formal supervision. One of the best things you can do to combat any difficulties to re-entry is to maintain your medical license. “It’s easier to maintain your board certification and keep up with MOC (Maintenance of Certification) than to renew it once it’s lapsed,” Dr. Tracci said.