When I entered medical school, I believed clinical medical practice would be my one and only job. But times, they are changing: globalization has led to innovative opportunities to earn an income and we, physicians are not immune to this. With billionaires and entrepreneurs suggesting at least seven sources of income, physicians must take heed and diversify.
To be clear, multiple streams of income does not necessarily mean multiple jobs. Your investment portfolio and real estate holdings may already serve as a great side gig. Rather, find opportunities that are enjoyable and do not usurp too much of your time, educational or financial resources. While stepping outside of clinical medicine may initially seem daunting, these side gigs not only boost income, but also offer leadership skills, increased work-life balance, a creative outlet and may even augment your ability to care for your patients.
So, after eleven or more years of training to be a physician, what are some of your side gig options?
Locums and telemedicine
Often thought as a career move for doctors at the end of their career, locums and telemedicine are becoming more popular at all career stages. Ninety four percent of medical facilities employ a locum tenens doctors and the AAMC’s prediction of an up to 121, 300 physician shortage by 2030 will increase the need for telemedicine doctors- especially specialists- to provide care in remote locations. These two options give you the ability to increase your income- locum tenens positions tend to pay 30-50% more than salaried ones-3 set your own schedule, travel to diverse locations and forgo the bureaucracy inherent with an employed position. In addition, these opportunities help to build your professional network as you interact with physicians and health care providers across the country.
Hospital Leadership and Administration
This is an obvious choice as a physician. Many hospital and medical group CEO and presidents have an MBA but know little about what physician need in their work environment. Some suggest that the best hospitals instead are managed by physicians. If you have ideas about updating the EMR, improving quality controls in the hospital or want to effect change across your hospital, this may be ideal for you. Whether as a part or full time gig, this leadership role allows you to have an effect outside your specialty or department by improving the work life balance of your colleagues, expanding the impact of your organization and the quality of care it provides. If you go this route, be aware of the hours required of you- and their impact on your clinical work- and any liabilities you hold, especially if you serve as part of the Board of Directors. Some who chose this route advice carrying umbrella insurance if you do not already have it.
As a physician, you write (or type), prescriptions, patient reports, and research papers daily. We have a strong work ethic, internal locus of control and are highly disciplined, all skills necessary for a freelancing writing career.5 And there is a need: health and wellness websites want licensed MD to answer patients’ questions and educated the public, the Accreditation Council for Continuing Medical Education (ACCME) needs test questions, and online sites like HospitalRecruiting.com and KevinMD hire doctors to write articles for their physician readers. Writing is a useful tool to establish yourself as an expert in your area of interest whether via an e-book, a personal blog or a traditional publication.
Many physicians wax poetic about the good old days of private practice and feel suffocated by the managed care model that so many of us live under. As such, boutique and cosmetic practices are popping up across the country in which physicians bypass health insurance and simply charge a fee for service. However, starting your own business is quite the struggle, with startup costs, marketing strategies and business models taking the pleasure out of patient care. Instead, you can join an existing clinic as Medical Director, providing you with oversight and autonomy in this burgeoning filed. Of course, make sure the clinical practice is within your scope of expertise and practice due diligence in identifying the extent of your liability. Have a lawyer look over your contract and find out if you can negotiate a partnership with the practice.
Pharmaceutical Industry/Technological Innovation
Have you ever thought: [insert your great idea] would be an excellent addition to my practice or really help my patient struggling with medical compliance? If you enjoy bench research and getting to the bottom of difficult questions, an advisory role in the pharmaceutical or medical technology industry may be for you. These companies, whether multinational corporations or young startups, require innovative physicians with clinical experience to guide their product development and ensure that there is a true market and clinical application for their product or medication.
Leadership roles in public policy and health
If you’ve decided that you want to impact more than the health of a single patient at a time, a leadership role in public health might be for you. This may start of as a voluntary role in your area of expertise and gradually involve into a paid leadership role.5 Start by getting involved in your specialty’s organization or an organization championing the care of a medical disease you are passionate about. Within these organizations, you can network with like-minded physicians. You never know how your passion may lead to an advocacy role in promoting public awareness for an underfunded disease or improving national access to effective therapies for patients.
Whatever side gig you pursue, realize that you have a myriad of options as a physician. Your training, knowledge and skills are increasingly valuable in a variety of positions. Get outside the (clinical) box and pursue your passions.
- Rose, J. 5 ways to generate different sources of income. Nov 2, 2017. Retirved at: https://www.forbes.com/sites/jrose/2017/11/02/different-sources-income/#423da19b37bb
- New research shows increasing physician shortages in both primary and specialty care. Apr 11, 2018. AAMC News. Retrieved at: https://news.aamc.org/press-releases/article/workforce_report_shortage_04112018/
- Nomad Health. Top 7 reasons why doctors are choosing a locum tenens jobs. Jun 19, 2018. Retrieved at: https://blog.nomadhealth.com/top-7-reasons-why-doctors-are-choosing-locum-tenens-jobs/
- Stoller J, Goodall A, Baker A. Why the best hospitals are managed by doctors. Harvard Bus Rev. Dec 27, 2016. Retrieved at: https://hbr.org/2016/12/why-the-best-hospitals-are-managed-by-doctors
- Wilner, A. Working outside the box: alternative careers for doctors. Medscape. Aug 14, 2018. Retreived at: https://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/900504?src=mkm_ret_180819_mscpmrk_alternative_careers&uac=301464MV&impID=1716012&faf=1