More Than MD: Our Creative Outlets Can Make Us Better Doctors

A question was recently posed in an online physician forum on Facebook that I engage in called Physician Side Gigs. The poster questioned why any physician would want to pursue a job or “gig” outside of medicine. Over 100 responses later, the answers proved far and wide: “It’s part of my exit medicine plan” and “I’ve got bills to pay” were just a few of the replies my colleagues posted on why clinical medicine was not their only job. Some further described themselves as “creatives” who had many talents outside of medicine, which they wished to explore. Still others stated that doing something outside of their practice gave them an outlet for burnout.

I left full-time employment one-year post residency to give myself more flexibility for other endeavors. I received a lot of pushback from colleagues who felt I had just started my career and “needed to work” and even my financial advisor felt it was a poor decision due to my significant student loan debt. However, I always knew that becoming a doctor was only one of the many things I wanted to accomplish in my adult life. I also recognized that the work schedule (and accompanying exhaustion) did not allow me the freedom to do other things. I tip my hat to those that are pursuing other things and still fulfilling full-time clinical duties.

No matter what your employment situation looks like, I do believe every physician should be doing something outside of medicine. When I speak with medical school hopefuls, I always encourage them to also pursue other interests and hobbies on their journey to becoming a doctor. If not for the extra income (as Warren Buffet advocates for more than one stream of income), at least for the ability to explore other interests you may have. Many of us have artistic and music abilities the world would appreciate. Still others have business tactics that would do very well in this new age of entrepreneurship. Many also have a philanthropic side that would make a different type of impact outside of the clinical arena. A quick online search will show physicians creating apps, writing blogs and books, and speaking on podcasts. I know there are so many others that would be able to do the same and more.

Being someone with many hats/talents does not hinder care with patients. In actuality, it may allow us to better care for our patients as we may be able to find common ground based on similar interests. It can also lead to increased contentment with our own lives which translates into better physician-patient relationships.

It’s been two years since I decided to pursue ventures outside of clinical medicine. I have successfully launched a career as a locums/travel physician and philanthropist, creating a nonprofit in 2016. I have also begun the groundwork for an E-commerce based business that I hope to launch in the near future. My story is a bit nontraditional as I was very radical in my decision to leave employed medicine. I realize it is not for everyone. But I do think side gigs and pursuing other endeavors is something everyone can do and will enjoy.

Dr. Akua Ampadu is a hospitalist physician passionate about quality inpatient and outpatient adult care. As a survivor of work and life related burnout, she aims to provide tools necessary to live a life focused on self-care and self-advocacy. She also recognizes the importance of reading to one’s health and created Healing Words Foundation in 2016, a literacy-based charity focused on providing books to pediatric wards and outpatient clinics. She is active on social media.

Dr. Ampadu is a 2018–2019 Doximity Author.

Illustration by April Brust

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