“Should I Quit Residency?”

If you’re here because you’re asking yourself this question, you’re in the right place! This website was built to help residents find the answer. I asked myself the same question a few years ago and took about three months to conclude that quitting residency was the right move for me. There weren’t many resources online that addressed this specific question, so I created this site to provide the guidance that I wish I had back then. I’m sure you’ll quickly detect the theme here, but I’d like to summarize it for you:

It is okay to consider quitting residency. You are not alone. People have done this before you and will continue to do it after you.

In fact, there is a massive community of non-clinical physicians who left medicine in all stages of their careers, from early residency, to decades of practice. There are even annual conferences for non-clinical physicians!

Answering The Question (“should I quit residency?”) can take some time. But it’s 100% doable. If this is your first time here, I recommend starting with my guide below. It will take you through the entire process, starting with your first encounter with The Question, how to answer it, and finally how to quit residency if that’s what you ultimately decide is best for you.

Part One

Ask Away!

Answering The Question (“should I quit residency?”) is a bit of a process. There’s no doubt about it. They key is to break it down into small, concrete, achievable steps. The first of which is to simply allow yourself to ask it. Guilt-free. There is nothing inherently wrong with exploring the idea of leaving residency. No one is going to show up at your door and yell at you.

Regardless of what our medical system tells you, you are not a robot. You’re allowed to question your decisions in life, just like everyone else. So, let yourself explore and be kind to yourself along the way. It will inevitably open up a floodgate of other questions:

“will I be throwing all my training away?” “do I even like medicine?” “how will I make money?” “what will my friends and family think?” “how would quitting even work?”

This may seem overwhelming or even impossible to tackle. But it isn’t. Take a deep breath and read the following two points that I think will provide some perspective:

  1. There are answers to all those questions. I’ve gone through it. Many others have as well. You just take it one step at a time. This guide will get you started.
  2. Think about the alternative: you ignore The Question because it’s too hard to answer. You passively continue down your super-difficult path of medical training, let it dictate the next 40-50 years of your life, and hope for the best.

To be clear, I’m not saying that quitting is right for everyone. I’m sure every single one of us has thought “I hate residency” at some point during our training, so if that was the only prerequisite to dropping out of residency, we’d be in trouble! All I’m saying is, if you’re thinking about quitting residency, let yourself explore a bit. Deciding to continue is just as impactful to your future as deciding to quit.

You may be thinking to yourself “I already decided that medicine was right for me! It was MY decision to apply to medical school!” For most of you, you probably made that decision at least 8 years ago. As Dr. Chelsea Turgeon so eloquently puts it in her book: “We are dynamic beings, meant to grow and evolve and change.” You are not the same person now as you were back then. Just because your past self wanted to pursue medicine, doesn’t necessarily mean your current self would agree. There was no way you could fully understand what medicine was like until you actually entered the field. And chances are you haven’t had much time or mental bandwidth to reevaluate your life decisions since before medical school.

So, yes, there are plenty of additional questions to consider. It’ll take some time to answer them. But you can get there, just like so many others have. I’ll share some helpful resources, including some that I’ve created myself, like this awesome flowchart:

Quitting Residency Flowchart
(I dive into this chart more in Part Two)

So, after you feel comfortable asking The Question, you need to create the proper environment to answer it. Next up is Part Two – Setting Yourself Up for Success!