I didn’t finish residency…How do I explain this on my resume/CV/interview?

Hi everyone, this week, Kent McMackin, President of Physician Leaders for Today, will be talking about a question that I recently received from an anonymous person from Facebook. I thought it was a great question because the individual thought it was so unique that she/he personally messaged me.

The truth is, I got several messages asking me to ask Kent this question!


Help, I didn’t finish residency. How do I explain this on my resume/CV/interview?

Let’s back-up a moment and focus on the positive of what you did before residency.

A lot of your questions for this blog series have suggested situations where you have experienced or expect difficulty seeking jobs. Answering this question, in my opinion, should have absolutely no effect on seeking a non-clinical position.

The absolute most envied, respected, and sought after degree in the “World” is an MD or DO. In my career of working with and for physicians I think of you as heroes.

I found this week’s question very difficult to respond to, other than to address how the organizations I led looked at physicians that did not complete residency. I made sure that anyone who worked with or for me remembered that we were not in the judgment industry; we were in the ask the question, get the answer, and move on business.

I further insured that we kept our focus on the MD and DO degrees and reminded everyone that none of us had either one. While I continue to fog a mirror on this planet, no one without an MD or DO degree will minimize physician education where I am involved.

I have been honored and blessed to speak with physicians who have practiced around the World; The United States of America, which I am proud to call my country, is not the only country that produces heroes.

Finally before I answer this question, I have spent a career/lifetime in awe of and champion for my heroes in life; it is a privilege to know physicians and spend time with them. “Your sacrifices are many and most often unseen.”

My passion for putting patients in the absolute best situation as they seek care, as I understand healthcare through my career, without hesitation or doubt gets better when physicians are in leadership positions. I have dedicated the last 12 years building a method that takes the value from what a physician does from medical school on and transitioning that experience to an administrative document that focuses on the quantitative variable of a clinical practice that clearly shows that an MD or DO trained executive is absolutely the postgraduate degree that is most capable to lead all aspects of our industry.

Simply put an MD/DO is the best executive to lead any product or service that practicing physicians need to treat patients.

The four common reasons organizations hear for not completing residency are: 

  • Life: the physician or someone in the family is sick; had a child; did not want to be in clinical medicine; did not like the specialty they matched in; taking a break; going to match in a different specialty.
  • Clinical: malpractice, license issues, sanctions, drugs, alcohol, and spouse/child abuse.
  • Financial and immigration: self explanatory.
  • Behavior: drugs, alcohol, and spouse/child abuse, other aberrant behavior.

How to answer questions:

If Life, Financial, or Immigration:

I would briefly discuss in a short cover letter, but, I would also provide language that would focus the reader on the value you will bring to the organization in an administrative role with your clinical experience as an MD or DO.

Life, financial, and immigration are common situations where most of the people who are reviewing your CV should be experienced with receiving this type of information.

Clinical and Behavior:

The main concern for an organization will be malpractice, since you are moving away from Clinical medicine that leaves behavior such as addiction, anger, or abusive behavior, or violence.

This will attract their attention as it would for any job seeker. Share whether you have completed counseling or treatment.

Phone Interview:

In a phone interview, whether the question is or is not asked I would prepare a response.

If the organization does not ask, because you answered their question in your cover letter; or, even if you did not provide a cover letter, when it is your turn to talk about your career, I would absolutely qualify why you stopped; and again, follow that short concise response with why your clinical experience gives value to your ability to be successful in the new position.

I hope this was helpful. One of the toughest things about transitioning into non-clinical roles is your mindset. Stay positive and focus on how you can use your own individual experiences to bring value to the role and the company.

Remember this is general advice for everyone, if you want to see what Kent would advise based on your own specific situation, you can email him at kent@physicianleadersfortoday.com. 

Kent can also be found on LinkedIn

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