There’s an age-old adage that says variety is the spice of life. And like most age-old adages, there’s some truth there. It seems fair to say that most of us like to switch things up once in awhile for the sake of freshness and spontaneity. Most of us, however, have a difficult time inserting variety into our work-life—while the challenges we face daily might change, we still tend to perform the same basic duties. But because of the broad applications of their expertise, physicians are well-suited to supplement their routine, experience, and income with a variety of extraprofessional jobs.
According to a 2013 survey in Medical Economics, 36% of family medicine practitioners and 35% of internists reported earning income from sources other than their primary form of employment. The age range most likely to earn a secondary income was 50-54, followed closely by doctors in the brackets from 40-64, defying the notion that it is young, hustling physicians looking to earn an extra buck against their burdensome debts.
Since a physician’s services are welcome, necessary, and unique, doctors appear to be well-positioned to insert some variety into their professional life while earning some extra income on the side.
One of the most exciting characteristics of these moonlighting opportunities is that they are as diverse and varied as the physicians choosing to fill the roles. If you work in a chaotic office environment and have a penchant for voicing your ideas, perhaps the peace and quiet of writing and self-publishing articles on a blog would be of interest. If you are a researcher who spends most of his time in a lab, perhaps getting some part-time work as an expert witness might be a nice change of pace. The opportunities are varied, interesting, and oftentimes, quite lucrative. So, without further ado, here’s a peek at what a few physicians do as part-time work.
We live in an age of technological advancement where more and more work can be done offsite. Telehealth doctors advise patients whom they will likely never meet in person, and deal with a variety of simple complaints. Since procedures are not involved, this is a good fit for primary care physicians looking to supplement their income. Most of these encounters tend to be between 5-15 minutes long, and physicians are generally compensated on a rate per case basis. Be aware, however, of your state’s laws regarding telemedicine. Some states, such as Texas, do not allow for telehealth consults on grounds that proper diagnosis cannot be performed without face-to-face consultation. But telehealth consults are legal in at least 21 states, including Illinois. Providing telehealth services across state borders raises issues of licensure, so as always, be sure to consult both your attorney and your insurance carrier to find out the particulars regarding its legality and your necessary personal coverage.
2. Independent Medical Examinations for Insurer Organizations
This involves seeing patients that have a claim of some sort, and your job will be to establish whether or not the patient’s condition merits a payout for worker’s compensation, auto insurance, health insurance, or Social Security. This can be difficult work, as you may encounter antagonistic patients who view you as an impediment to their claim. In addition, you need to be trained and certified by the American Board of Independent Medical Examiners, but the pay can be quite good (between $100 to $500 per hour according to Medscape).
3. Make House Calls
The age-old tradition of the “house call” appears to be making a comeback. There are a few companies that hire doctors for part-time to work to travel to (generally) older persons’ homes to perform face-to-face consultation when the patient is unable to travel to an office. These companies can be as varied as the doctors they hire, with some operations only serving a small area, and some operating on a national scale.
4. Medical Directorship at a Nursing Home, Pharmacy, Emergent Care Service Provider etc.
Please see Adam Rosenberg’s article on our site for more in-depth coverage of this somewhat complex topic. While these jobs tend to pay quite well, they vary greatly in terms of time commitment, duties, and insurance coverage, and before taking a position as a director, it is very important to understand how the particulars can affect you and your practice.
5. Work on a Cruise Ship
This one is not about the money usually, but about where you’ll be spending your “on-call” hours. According to Medscape, Dr. Charles Pexa, a Minneapolis-area emergency physician, has been taking “free” cruises for years. In return, he puts in a few hours each day as the ship’s doctor, and gets a small per diem for it. “It’s an adventure,” he says, “I can travel really inexpensively, and it’s usually pleasant work. People on cruises are very easy-going.”
These are just a few of the many options that doctors have when it comes to supplementing their income and routines with specialty services outside of their day-to-day professional life. There’s many, many more as well (claim review, screenings, working with pharmaceutical companies, speaking engagements, etc.). But as always, make sure to discuss any extraprofessional ventures with your attorney and insurance carrier to see if they are a fit for you and your personal exposure. In addition, it is advisable to review your obligations with your professional organization to ensure that you aren’t breaking contract by accepting any type of moonlighting work. Since a physician’s services are welcome, necessary, and unique, doctors appear to be well-positioned to insert some variety into their professional life while earning some extra income on the side.