Physician side work: Navigating the gig economy

Illustration physician side gigs

In today’s dynamic healthcare environment, many physicians find themselves seeking opportunities for gig work beyond their primary practice. The reasons to pursue gig work are as varied as the physicians themselves and can be attributed to a variety of factors, including a desire for supplemental income, professional enrichment, work/life balance, and the opportunity to diversify their skills.

Different types of gig work

Three of the most common types of physician side gigs are locum tenens, medical moonlighting, and telehealth.

Whereas locum tenens doctors fill in for absent colleagues, typically in different healthcare facilities or locations, medical moonlighting usually involves taking extra shifts within the same institution, providing financial relief and skill enhancement without changing workplaces.

Then there’s telehealth, which enables physicians to provide healthcare services remotely, leveraging technology to connect with patients and offer consultations from anywhere.

Each option caters to different professional and personal needs, allowing physicians to choose the path that aligns best with their goals and preferences.

Additional physician side gig opportunities:

Infographic types of physician side gigs

Some benefits of physician gig work

Supplemental income

One of the primary motivators for seeking gig work is the benefit of supplemental income. From paying down medical school debts to saving for retirement, physicians are increasingly turning to side gigs to alleviate financial burdens and secure their financial future beyond the years of active practice. In fact, a leading factor in starting locum tenens work found that the opportunity to supplement core income was the among physicians currently working locum tenens, followed by a way to earn income while looking for a permanent job.

Professional enrichment

Another significant reason physicians take on gig work is the pursuit of professional enrichment. The medical field is constantly evolving. Engaging in diverse roles, such as locum tenens, exposes physicians to a broader range of cases and challenges. This exposure not only sharpens their clinical skills but also keeps them updated with the latest advancements in their field.

Work/life balance

Maintaining a healthy work/life balance is essential for physicians, who often work long hours in demanding environments. Side gigs, especially those in telehealth, offer the flexibility to set your own schedule, enabling physicians to balance their professional commitments with personal lives can contribute significantly to overall well-being and job satisfaction.

Alleviating burnout

Gig work can also play a crucial role in reducing burnout by offering avenues for flexibility, autonomy, and diverse experiences. The demanding nature of healthcare often leads to burnout among physicians due to long hours, high-stress environments, and emotional exhaustion. Engaging in gig work, such as locum tenens, medical moonlighting, or telehealth, allows physicians to regain control over their schedules. They can choose when and where to work, enabling them to strike a healthier balance between professional responsibilities and personal life.

Dr. Andrew Wilner, MD, FACP, FAAN, wrote on the benefits of locum tenens as a way to “be happier and stay in the game. Nonclinical careers offer physicians a way out, but locum tenens provides a way to stay in.”

Infographic types of side gigs

Meeting the needs of underserved communities

Some physicians look to side gigs to address healthcare disparities. For example, locum tenens positions in underserved areas provide essential medical services to communities that lack sufficient healthcare resources. By pursuing assignments in medically underserved communities, physicians contribute meaningfully to society, contributing to both personal and professional goals.

Building a professional network

Gig work also offers physicians the chance to expand their professional networks. Through locum tenens assignments or telehealth consultations, they interact with colleagues from various backgrounds and specialties. These connections often lead to collaborations, research opportunities, and referrals, opening doors to potential new career pathways and opportunities.

For physicians considering gig work to supplement their current income and career experience, seasoned locum tenens physician Dr. Nicholas Kusnezov offers this advice on how to maximize the benefits of working locum tenens in addition to a full-time practice:

Plan to maintain continuity of care

“It is essential to ensure continuity of care for the patients in your primary practice. You must have contingency plans in place to effectively manage such patient- or practice-related issues that may arise to maximize patient care.”

Be efficient with the logistics

When you are just getting started with locum tenens, the logistics may seem daunting. But like anything else, there is a learning curve, and it is possible to integrate locums effectively and efficiently within even a busy primary practice. Efficiency with logistics is the key to maximizing the financial benefits.”

Know what your time is worth

As a locum physician with a busy full-time primary practice, locum tenens not only substantially supplements my case volume and experience, but it is a tremendous financial asset. You should always ask yourself what your time is worth. As long as you know your worth and select jobs which appropriately compensate you for your time, you can easily and comfortably increase your income considerably.”

Physician gig work — including locum tenens, medical moonlighting, and telehealth — can be a rewarding way to not only supplement your income but also enjoy flexibility, skill diversification, work/life balance, social responsibility, and professional networking opportunities. The benefits of these supplementary pursuits make them an attractive option for physicians looking to enrich their careers and lead fulfilling professional lives.

Get the latest locums news delivered to your inbox.