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Three Reasons Per-Diem Docs are Very Happy and Avoid ‘Physician Burnout’


Google “physician burnout” and you will be hit with an avalanche of articles about the epidemic of physician job dissatisfaction.

Being a doctor has always been a tough line of work, no matter where you are. It’s physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, and certainly not for the faint hearted. It’s estimated that over 50 percent of all physicians in America are burned out, with certain specialties affected more than others.

Doctors everywhere, after a certain number of years, are increasingly looking for ways out of the drudgery of full-time employment and an unhappy work life (and it’s largely the huge shift from private practice/small business ownership, to being employees of corporations, that has exacerbated this situation).

One way that they are doing this, is essentially joining the “gig economy” and practicing on their own terms. They are still able to be good and competent doctors, providing their services to facilities in need—but avoid being full-time employees. Here are three reasons why they are happy:

1.Set their own schedule

Moonlighting and per-diem physicians will typically work at two or more facilities, creating their own work schedule (usually months in advance). They do not have to ask around for vacation time, “switch shifts” with colleagues, or feel indebted to only one institution. Freedom and independence are the two keywords here.

2.Avoid administrative headaches

Working as a regular full-time physician comes with a whole host of administrative requirements and asks. While no doctor should ever “bury their head in the sand” when it comes to healthcare administration (there always needs to be teamwork), neither did any physician get into medicine to spend their time stuck on these tasks. Far better to focus on clinical work and caring for patients as much as you can, which moonlighting and per-diem physicians get to do.

3.Work less, earn more

The final important element to this (one that can make it a bit of a no-brainer) is that if you are savvy and smart about how you do this, you can easily earn a lot more while working less! Doctors may need to be flexible here, but the trade-off is often worth it. The practice of medicine in most places is tough and rigorous. Long hours, nights, and weekends. The better deal you can get, to allow yourself more free time and a work-life balance, the better for your long-term health.

Look around you and watch physicians who are doing this in your hospital or clinic. Or anywhere else that you know nearby. Talk to them about how they are avoiding full-time employment at only one facility and how they go about it. Are they paid via a W2 or 1099? What is their schedule like? How long have they been doing this? And finally, ask them if they are happier this way? We suspect they are.

By Suneel Dhand MD

Suneel Dhand MD is an internal medicine physician, author and speaker. He is the cofounder at DocsDox, a service that helps physicians find local moonlighting and per diem opportunities.

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