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“Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.”
-Robert Frost

Medical school, residency, fellowship, clinical practice…a seemingly straightforward and common stepwise passageway into medicine. This series of life events is not for everyone and not always. Today I am will highlight one of our colleagues who has followed her heart and passions and taken the road less traveled in medicine. Through discomfort, we grow, so let’s all keep growing! We can learn from our peers who have navigated these alternative ways to practice and live and have found profound joy and freedom through the process.

Dr. Wendy Schofer, MD, is a Pediatrician in Virginia and now also a certified Health and Life Coach. As a young mother, she transitioned from a full-time military practice into traditional clinical medicine. Like many women in medicine, she quickly felt the tension between energy at work and home and felt the scales tipping all in favor of work. In an effort not to sacrifice her community and family interests, she transitioned to part-time practice in Pediatric Urgent Care and discovered newfound energy to explore other areas of passion. When COVID hit in 2020, she happened upon a coaching lecture and became fascinated by the language and message, so she signed up for coaching for herself. “What I saw changing was my relationships…with my mother-in-law and my mother…[coaching] was changing these relationships because I was changing!” Shortly thereafter, she signed up for the certification herself. When she started coaching, she found her niche to be coaching families around the area of weight concerns for parents and children. Through various networking and independent requests, she then expanded into the field of burnout and transitions for physicians.

Dr. Schofer has found huge impacts on her clinical practice as well. “[Coaching] taught me how to be a better listener…to hear what’s being said and what’s not being said. I didn’t practice that way before.” She has also found dramatic improvements in her life. When she was in medicine, “the story I learned [from medicine] was that I wasn’t enough: wasn’t strong enough, wasn’t dedicated enough, wasn’t cut out to be working full time. [But] I was trying to fit into somebody else’s mold.” As she identified her personal needs, goals, and values, she found her own balance, and as she states enthusiastically, “balance has always been where am I having fun.” And she has created a dream life for herself that incorporates both “flexibility and fun.” Her goal is to help her colleagues achieve their own dream life.

We all recognize the number of physicians leaving medicine and anticipating leaving medicine. Dr. Schofer highlights the ability to celebrate this transition as physicians explore other areas of interest. “This is a very unique time right now; let’s take advantage of this…we don’t just have to be pawns.” Some physicians may transition from full-time to part-time, some from clinical practice to non-clinical, and some into parenthood while being in clinical practice.

Are you a fellow physician who is ready to explore his or her dream life? Yes! Let’s make sure you know what to look for in your current contract or your future contract to accommodate an outside passion. There are two main provisions that are pertinent to this value:

  1. Intellectual property: This clause is meant to protect the interests of your employer and essentially states that anything you create during the term of the contract is the property of the employer. If your side gig or new passion involves creating something new and is not done through your clinical job, clinical job resources, or your clinical hours, that should be your property to keep and profit from. It is important to review this clause and understand the nuances to confirm that the work you are performing is yours and yours alone.
  2. Outside activity clauses: Again, these clauses are meant to protect the interests of the employer.
    1. Are you allowed to partake in outside work? Some contracts will specify that you cannot have another job outside of your position with the employer. Their goal is that all of your professional energy and efforts be directed towards their facility and patients and not compromised or diluted by work elsewhere. Although understandable, it is reasonable that you should be able to use your free time as you wish. Some contracts will specify that this cannot be medical work, some are more generalized. Some will say you can perform outside work but only if written approval is first received from your employer. It is incredibly important to understand if these clauses are in your contract and just how restrictive they may be. This could extend from locum tenens to expert witness roles all the way to your lemonade stand.
    2. If you’re approved to partake in outside work, will you keep the compensation you earn from it? Some employed contracts will go so far as to say that you may be approved to do outside work, however, any compensation earned from that will be owed to the hospital. Most physicians would expect that any money they earn be their own to keep, which is a completely reasonable expectation. This highlights the importance of confirming the content of these clauses in your contract.

Nearing the end of our interview, Dr. Schofer commented, “What I love about medicine is that I finally figured out how to do it on my terms…I found out how to have fun…that’s my currency…I make work transitions to ensure I can maintain flexibility.” As fellow physicians, Dr. Schofer and I wholeheartedly agree on the importance of supporting our colleagues. Although we do so in different ways – Dr. Schofer through her coaching and myself through contract education, review, and negotiation – the goal is the same: support our colleagues in their dreams to lead a life reflective of their personal and unique goals and values.

When it comes to transitions, some physicians feel the burden of their community, families, or budgets to continue on the full-time clinical track they are on. You may wonder how you can put yourself in a position to walk away, drop to part-time, and/or pick up a new hobby. There are always obstacles, whether student loans, college tuition for kids, a mortgage, or fear of the unknown…Dr. Schofer said it beautifully, “obstacles are just showing you what you need to focus on…how do you work around it…that’s your new goal.”

Here at Contract Diagnostics, let us help you at least navigate that one obstacle of understanding and negotiating contracts to make sure your employment contract is reflective of your goals and values. Through coaching, perhaps Dr. Schofer can help you identify your dream life, and through contract review, we can help ensure contractually you can live it.

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