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We live in a culture that is defined by one size NOT fitting all. While this is an empowering position full of endless possibilities (have you been down the cereal aisle of the grocery store lately..? TOO MANY OPTIONS), it can seem overwhelming. This is especially true when it comes to work and career choices. The average person, after all, spends one third of their life at work… that is a whole lot of time! (90,000 hours to be exact.) No wonder people are so quick to switch careers whenever they find a better fit or opportunity. 

On average, an American changes jobs 12 times in their lifetime, which can include a minor switch from being a newspaper reporter to an online media reporter, or a drastic change from an aerospace engineer to a dog masseuse. 2021 was a year full of job switcheroos as more and more people were driven to realize that their happiness, well-being, and time was better invested in a job or company that treated them and their skills and accomplishments with more respect and gratitude. Or they just really wanted a change; who doesn’t want a little something different after the last few years in this recurring pandemic peril?

The trend is the same in the increasingly competitive healthcare landscape. Here, doctors face two stark choices: either become an entrepreneur or work for a large American hospital system. Due to systemic changes and structural requirements, doctors are increasingly choosing the latter. But it may be to their detriment.

As of 2016, less than half of all doctors owned their own practice—for the first time ever. Becoming a private practice physician is fraught with all the same pitfalls that every other entrepreneur faces: staffing, money, time, branding, space. It’s hard to start a business, and even harder to survive over time. The basics of running a business are the same. At the very minimum, you’ll need to invest in paying for a website, staff, incorporation fees, legal advice, and advertising. This sounds like the beginning of the trappings of burnout.

According to Medscape’s pre-pandemic report, 44% of physicians were already feeling burned out. The top reason they reported? Too many bureaucratic tasks such as charting, paperwork, etc. (59% of respondents). Those rates only increased during the pandemic. As hospital chains are continuously consolidating into larger and larger conglomerate systems, physicians are impeded from starting their own practice because of the type of medicine they specialize in. The structural requirements of many medical settings have increasingly led doctors who are burned out to move into practicing telemedicine, which has really taken off thanks to the constraints of in-person care during lockdowns and social distancing in 2020.

Many physicians are increasingly turning to the “side gig.” Like the gig economy, some physicians are eschewing the full-time employment role for the compartmentalized approach.

Why? To achieve financial independence and freedom from working in these large, industrialized hospital settings. But do doctors actually have time for a second job? It depends. Some physicians keep their toes in the traditional setting—practicing medicine to keep the protection of a steady salary, health benefits, licensure, and/or retirement perks. But they also branch out to explore income-generating opportunities, medical and non-medical alike.

Other options for generating extra income don’t require much of a time commitment, so many doctors opt for things like investing in passive income streams or hiring someone else to manage their side gig. Most work is a commodity after all—so if your side gig can more than cover the cost of hiring an assistant, ghostwriter, property manager, etc., then you might consider that option as well. Outsource to build your company, and you can help set up someone else for a new income stream as well.

There are a lot of approaches to diversifying one’s income portfolio, and like-minded folks are establishing new avenues to cultivate such ideas. One such group, Physician Side Gigs, was started by Dr. Nisha Mehta on Facebook, which has grown to 25,000+ physicians and is now a stand-alone website. Physician side gigs listed on Dr. Mehta’s website include: real estate, telemedicine, writing, speaking, podcasting, medical surveys, coaching, direct sales, chart review, investments, product creation, expert witness, and “miscellaneous.” Finding your niche inside and outside medicine has never been easier.

Some people in the space recommend being a Locum Tenens physician (filling in part-time as needed at a hospital), creating an online course, starting a blog, investing in a healthcare startup, or getting into the short-term rental market through Airbnb or VRBO. Though many side gigs have a significant startup cost such as investing in real estate or purchasing a franchise, other options don’t require as much cash to get going. So even if you’re still paying down student loans or if you’re a veteran physician, there are many interesting options to explore as you consider diversifying your income streams.

Just as burnout has become a constantly talked about topic, physician “side hustles” have become an area of great interest. Coupled with prudent advice on how to tackle debt quickly and invest early, you have a potential recipe for financial independence—and hopefully decreasing rates of burnout. Yes, there are still issues with income inequality—even within the ranks of medicine. But if you can own your livelihood, you’ll be more in control of your career and life.

At Simply Psych, we advocate for self-discovery and finding your niche. As more and more societal barriers are being broken down, the ability to find something you love to do is finally accessible to all, no matter your age, sex, gender, color, race, ethnicity, education, or socioeconomic status. Find what makes you tick and invest your time in it. If you need to switch a job or two to find what you love, then go for it! 

For mental health professionals, we encourage a mix of income streams, including ongoing direct client/patient care. Your career foundation is healing and wellness for those you treat. Carving out time and space for yourself to thrive is vital so that you don’t become burned out by the heavy toll of the helping sector. Your time is so important; the work you do literally saves lives. Keeping fuel in your tank, and, in this context, passion-filled-fire in your soul, is a big  investment in career longevity. 

So what’s the best way to run a part-time private practice? Use Simply Psych. We afford you the time to bake, volunteer, flip houses, and everything in between. While we focus on the practice management aspect of your practice (how you want it to be done!), you can focus on treating your patients… and yourself. Pick up that new hobby. Learn that new skill. Start that new thriving business.

Spend more time doing what you love so your life isn’t defined by simply your career, but instead on the life you get to live doing the things you enjoy. Simply Psych is happy to help! To learn more, drop us a line at hello@simplypsych.com. We would love to hear from you!

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