Your spouse or family member becomes ill, you have children you want to raise, or you get an administrative job. As a result, you think, “I’ll put my medical license on hold, become inactive or go active retired because the fees are less, and it will help me take care of whatever needs to happen for the interim.”
Time goes by, you might even continue earning your CME to keep up, and then the situation changes and you want to see patients again. Four years. That’s the magic number in Pennsylvania.
I am an assistant medical director for the LifeGuard® Program, which assists with physician re-entry into the licensed physician workforce. We deal with physicians who have gotten into trouble with their state boards for any number of reasons, who have had their competency called into question, or who are aging and hit the magic number that says they need an assessment to be sure they can practice competently within their health system or hospital.
It’s a great program. We try hard to help physicians through whatever their issues are, educate, assess and work with the physicians, some of whom self-refer, to be sure they are as good as we all want to be. Those situations are tough enough, but this is a plea to all of you out there who might be thinking of letting your medical license lapse, even for a little while.
Don’t do it.
The money you save in non-renewal is simply not worth the hassle if by some chance (at least in Pennsylvania) you go more than four years.
One participant in the LifeGuard® Program we had come through was hired by an administrative health care organization that valued her being a physician, but did not require an active license. After working for several years, she left the company, and sought other employment.
Even in an administrative position, most physician employers require an active license, so she applied for an active license and discovered that after four years, she had to enter our program to get permission to have her license restored. She had no problem getting through the LifeGuard® Program, but it is not free and requires additional time and effort.
Had she maintained an active license for the intervening years, it would have been much easier to simply re-enter practice. She did maintain her CME and was working in a position that exposed her to clinical work, so it wasn’t terribly difficult, but she did have to get through our program.
Recently, another physician near retirement took time off to care his ailing wife, figuring he would exit retirement after the period of care ended. He took the option of changing his license to “Active Retired” not knowing that returning to full active licensure would require completion of our program. The “Active” word fooled him into thinking it was something more than it was.
As a former medical director for health plans with no clinical time, I maintained an active license and therefore CME requirements for both Pennsylvania licensing and board certification. But as I neared the magic cutoff of four years without clinical practice, I realized because of my exposure to LifeGuard® that I really should have some clinical practice time in order to avoid any hassles should I ever return to clinical practice.
Technically, no active clinical practice for more than four years puts your license at risk in Pennsylvania. Calling attention to your lack of clinical practice by putting your license into “Inactive,” “Active Retired,” or “Retired Status” will subject you to re-entry procedures which may be onerous and expensive.
Don’t do it. Keep your active license until you are sure you don’t want to see patients ever again. You worked too hard to get it. Don’t give it up until you’re really sure.