What’s driving biomedical portfolio careers?

The concept of a portfolio career, significant involvement in one or more areas (portfolios) of activity outside of a primary job role, either concurrently or sequentially, is nothing new in business. In fact, several companies have developed infrastructure and processes to encourage workers and management teams to expand their interests and skills. Sabbaticals, knowledge exchange programs, volunteer community projects, side gigs and extended learning opportunities are some examples. Medicine, however, has taken a back seat when it comes to embracing and supporting graduates and trainees interested in portfolio careers.

A few medical schools are taking a second look at offering their students the tools they need to succeed in non-clinical activities.

What’s driving the interest in portfolio careers by bioscientists, medical students, residents and practitioners? There are several major push and pull factors:

1. A demand for greater flexibility,autonomy and work-life balance

2. Decreasing satisfaction with clinical practice or research environment because of an increasingly hostile legal and regulatory environment and lack of basic science research funding.

3. A need for self-actualization that goes beyond clinical activities

4. Career and job dissatisfaction anger and risk management issues

5. A demand for physician skill sets in non-clinical areas and the lack of academic bioscience faculty jobs.

6. The increasing availability of alternative or non-clinical/non-academic career opportunities

7. A medical cultural shift in the acceptability of portfolio careers

8. Support groups, mentors and networks supporting the development of alternative careers

9. Attitudinal changes about how doctors can add value to patients beyond direct clinical care

10. Technologies allowing doctors and scientists to disconnect from a physical location to do work

11. Burn out

12. Clinical job insecurity and the threat to their income.

While creating a portfolio career, whether in mid-life or as part of a rewired encore career, can be enticing, there are things you should consider before going freelance.

Here are 10 ways to screw up the encore. Perhaps, you should consider the 10/20/30 Plan.

Creating a non-clinical career portfolio presents risks and benefits to biomedical stakeholders. However, the growth of the demand for policies, procedure and a culture of support will force the graduate science and medical establishment to confront the reality that students want more. They can support the trend or resist, but the outcome will be a cadre of future physicians and scientists looking for multiple ways to help patients, not just in the office, operating room, lab or at the bedside.

Arlen Meyers, MD , MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs