With Side Gigs, Physicians Create Their Own Rules

Image: Matej Kastelic/shutterstock.com

To many, the words ‘physician’ and ‘side gig’ seem like they shouldn’t be in the same sentence. After all, with escalating rates of reported burnout, the obvious solution that first comes to mind would be to take things off our plates, rather than contribute to them. But interestingly, physicians are increasingly exploring and developing side income streams.

By definition, a side gig is something you do in addition to your regular job. Even though physicians may seem similar at work, they are a talented — and diverse — group of individuals. Some choose to pursue clinically oriented side gigs, such as telemedicine, chart review, medical spas, medical surveys, and consulting. Others explore alternative passions such as real estate, professional speaking, writing, direct sales, coaching, product creation, music and art, franchising, podcasting — essentially anything that drives them.

The reasons for pursuing side gigs are different for each physician. Ultimately, most are seeking job flexibility or to diversify their income streams. Many are looking to transition to part time work, to create avenues to achieve financial independence earlier, and to be able to practice medicine on their own terms as the healthcare landscape changes. Some common additional reasons include the need to pay off student loans, the joy behind pursuing a passion and utilizing a different side of their personality, the tax benefits that come from having a side business, and the friendships and networking opportunities that accompany the side gig.

An obvious question that often arises is why physicians pursue side gigs instead of just working more hours in a clinical job. In most cases, this would yield a higher return on investment than developing and marketing another skill set (although there are some whose ‘side gig’ income has actually surpassed their clinical income). Despite this, for many, there is a different type of fulfillment or flexibility that comes from the side gig, and added security that comes with having an alternative source of revenue. On the whole, medical training is a defined pathway, and many welcome the opportunity to build something on their own terms. Some are struggling with burnout and do not want to spend more time in the clinical setting, while others want better work life balance and conventional medical careers may not align with their visions for their families or their lives outside of medicine. From my experience, most physicians pursuing side gigs do not see themselves completely transitioning out of clinical medicine.

Personally, I love my job as a radiologist and have no intentions of leaving it. But as a mother of two and a full time physician married to another physician, I enjoy having something that’s my own, where I create the rules. Through my ‘side gig,’ I’ve met a large number of interesting physicians throughout the country, been able to help other physicians who were struggling with burnout and work life balance, and develop another side of myself. Both professionally and personally, it has opened up a lot of doors, and I always encourage physicians to consider passive revenue streams as a tool to create the life in medicine that they desire.

More from Op-Med