Why side gigs can help you say no to overwork and pay cuts

Side gigs are all the rage these days, even among doctors. Although people outside the healthcare industry are often surprised to hear this, chances are that if you ask a medical professional about the trend, they will know why doctors are pursuing alternative projects with increasing fervor. .

Dr. Nisha Mehta, MD

As the founder of a online community with more than 92,000 doctors interested in parallel concerts, I see the reasons for this every day. A few years ago, if you had asked me if doctors needed side gigs, my answer would have been “No, but there are several benefits worth pursuing.”

These days, however, I’m forced to pause and think about how to answer the question. While I still believe that doctors can achieve significant financial success in medicine without a side job, and side jobs aren’t for everyone, I also know how critical side streams of income can be to help doctors to shape the medical career they want.

Side gigs provide options and leverage. They are also the tools doctors need to fight short-sighted decisions in a healthcare system plagued by problems that compromise the quality of care and threaten career longevity.

While many doctors still cite traditional reasons for pursuing side gigs — like tackling student loans, enjoying a hobby outside of medicine, or a desire for extra spending money — the main motivations that I hear more and more about are the need to leave clinical medicine, create financial freedom or get away from bad situations.

Ultimately, this desire is driven by worsening conditions for physicians within the healthcare ecosystem and less confidence in the system as a whole. Due to a trend of devaluing doctors’ expertise and time, doctors increasingly see the need to seek financial security elsewhere and have the power to say no.

Burnout – a significant problem before the pandemic began – has been exacerbated in recent years. Despite being called “healthcare heroes” since the start of the pandemic, doctors are fighting pay cuts, being asked to make personal sacrifices, being given increased workloads without meaningful appreciation or rewards, and face staffing shortages, among other issues.

The healthcare system now expects the altruism of doctors and other healthcare professionals to function. Doctors rarely join unions or go on strike and generally refuse to compromise patient care as a bargaining chip. As a result, they carry little weight in a system that prioritizes profits over quality of care.

Several times a year, physicians have to fight proposed cuts to CMS Medicare fee schedules. Instead of targeting spending fiercely guarded by for-profit entities with lobbying power, the system typically goes after physician compensation.

Recently, doctors have been asked to take a almost 10% off in reimbursement, amid rising inflation and after scaling up patient care during the pandemic, often at great personal cost. While most professionals would expect a raise to go beyond that, doctors have to fight just to keep the pay up.

In fact, doctors’ salaries represent a very small percentage of healthcare spending in this country (

Although the doctors are not on strike, they are suffering from professional burnout. And when that happens, they quietly plan to go out or look elsewhere to thrive. Pay cuts are also prompting doctors to consider escape options. These options include changing jobs, changing practice models, refusing to treat patients with poorly reimbursed insurance, cutting clinics, and giving up medicine altogether.

This is where side gigs come in as a potential solution. The extra income can allow physicians to reduce clinical hours, call requirements, or insurance contracts that frequently deny claims. It can also allow employed physicians to say no to unreasonable demands from employers and conserve income while determining their next move. Side gigs that ultimately meet physicians’ financial needs may also cause physicians to choose to leave clinical medicine for a practice model that allows them to spend more time focusing on aspects of the medical profession that ‘they appreciate.

Physicians can use their medical skills for counseling, non-clinical careers, non-patient contact roles, health coaching, medical writing, and other pursuits. Although many of these jobs pay less than medicine, they may offer more personal time, boundaries, or fulfillment. Some doctors use the clinical income they have earned over the years to invest in income streams that may allow them to be less dependent on clinical income, giving them the financial freedom to practice medicine only if they want to. wish. More and more frequently, we see posts on our websites declaring complete independence from medicine or changes to alternative career paths.

It is often said that your best tool at a negotiating table is the ability to walk away. With side gigs, alternative income streams, and more business and financial knowledge, many doctors are taking advantage of this tool. Indeed, the financial trajectory of physicians is unique, and the shackles that weigh on physicians early in their careers (student loans, mortgages, years of lost pension contributions) eventually come down. Once the debt is paid and retirement is secure, many physicians are able to consider earning less money or even retiring.

The demographics of physicians are changing. Millennials often choose lifestyle over money, and more doctors say they don’t need as much money, but they need more happiness and less. professional burnout.

The fact is, doctors are discovering that they can walk away, say no, or set limits, and they’re demonstrating this with increasing frequency. As physician compensation and expertise continue to be devalued, more physicians are deciding that the demands and frustrations of clinical medicine aren’t worth it. They hear the message that they are not valued by decision makers and choose to leave a system where doctor shortages are felt across the country. We are hearing more and more voices from the front lines saying enough is enough.

There is a growing sense that if the healthcare system simply views physicians as cogs in a wheel, physicians do not owe the system the same loyalty that they have traditionally shown to their patients and employers. Therefore, although they love science and their patients, they choose to leave.

From a political perspective, these facts should terrify anyone concerned about the sustainability of the current healthcare system and access to patient care. Attempts to extort doctors further, either financially or from a workload perspective, are short-sighted and will have a direct impact on access and quality of care.

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