5 career alternatives for psychiatrists who are ready to leave the clinic

By Sarah Handzel, BSN, RN | Fact-checked by Barbara Bekiesz
Published July 12, 2022

Key Takeaways

  • A recent study suggests 1 in every 5 physicians will leave their current job within 2 years, and this includes psychiatrists.

  • Many alternative career subspecialties for psychiatrists exist, from forensics, to locum tenens, to working with pain management.

  • Psychiatrists who are ready to move on from clinic work can research various career paths and network with colleagues who've made a switch to determine the best fit for them.

According to a 2021 study, 1 out of every 5 physicians—including psychiatrists—plan to leave their current job within the next 2 years. Additionally, about 1 out of every 3 physicians plan to reduce their working hours.

The reasons are varied: Along with the fear of infection and stress of caring for the public through the Covid-19 pandemic, providers cite burnout, mental health issues like anxiety and depression, and unmanageable workload as reasons for leaving the profession.[]

Psychiatrists are in a unique position to branch out from typical practice areas if they are dissatisfied with current job requirements. Learning more about alternative career options can help pinpoint potential interests and start the process of change.

Administrative psychiatry

Physicians interested in a more administrative role within their healthcare network may find a good fit with administrative psychiatry. This subspecialty helps develop and enrich therapeutic environments where providers treat mental illness, developmental disorders, or substance use issues.[]

By putting administrative theories into practice, administrative psychiatrists work to improve various aspects of healthcare service delivery, such as consumer satisfaction, efficiency, effectiveness, and humanity.

Related: What to do if you don't want to practice clinical medicine

Forensic psychiatry

The role of the forensic psychiatrist is important to helping mentally ill individuals navigate the country’s legal system.[] Forensic psychiatrists provide expert knowledge covering a variety of legal matters involving offenders, such as fitness to stand trial, readiness for parole, and the impact of injuries or other damages on third parties.

Additionally, forensic psychiatrists may be called upon to perform psychological autopsies in cases of suicide or sudden death, or to evaluate a person’s ability to write a will or enter into a contract. 

Locum tenens psychiatry

Some physicians crave schedule flexibility and the opportunity to try out new positions before committing to permanent placement. A locum tenens job could be perfect for psychiatrists who do not want to settle down into a single practice. Instead, doctors working locum tenens fill in for other psychiatrists based out of hospitals, clinics, and other practice areas.

This kind of job gives psychiatrists the opportunity to visit different areas of the country and maintain a flexible lifestyle while still providing essential mental health care.

Related: Lessons learned from a locum tenens doc who's been there

Organizational psychiatry

Work is an essential component of most people’s lives, and organizational psychiatrists help people and organizations both function better in their day-to-day roles. Organizational psychiatrists act as consultants for businesses and their employees. Some of their  functions include the following:[]

  • Acting as a member of a threat assessment or crisis management team

  • Assessing disruptive or impaired employees

  • Evaluating employees for fitness for duty

  • Helping to develop policies and procedures for the workplace

  • Performing disability insurance evaluations

  • Reviewing Social Security disability or workers’ compensation records

Pain psychiatry

Many Americans struggle with chronic pain issues, impacting not only the patient but their families, employers, and society at large. Pain psychiatrists make important contributions to patient care by working to address the psychological consequences—and contributors—to pain, especially pain that does not respond well to traditional treatment.

Pain psychiatrists usually work as a close part of the multidisciplinary team, addressing issues like anxiety or depression, which often occur along with chronic pain.

This model may help chronic pain patients address the full spectrum of their medical issues, calming their emotional state and making further treatment progress possible. 

What this means for you

There is more to psychiatry than simply evaluating patients in the clinic. For alternatives, psychiatrists can consider different branches of psychiatry like forensics, locum tenens, administrative, or even working with pain patients to find the niche that may best fit their skill set and goals.


Read Next: Real Talk: When you're thinking of quitting medicine
Share with emailShare to FacebookShare to LinkedInShare to Twitter