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What to Know About Moonlighting as a Physician

By Anna Mueller, MS06 Jul 2020

No matter where you are in your career as a physician, medical care moonlighting can be an excellent opportunity to increase earnings and grow your experience.

For example, moonlighting during residency can help you pay off student loans and sharpen your skills, while taking on additional work opportunities as a mid-to-late career physician can help you save for retirement and explore new challenges.

But before you begin taking on shifts as a moonlighting physician, there are a few things you need to know.

Why Do Physicians Moonlight?

While moonlighting during residency is still popular, there’s a growing number of well-established physicians opting to moonlight both part-time and full-time, too. In fact, the physicians most likely to report a secondary income are those between the ages of 50-54, GettyImages-1179610553followed by those between 45-49, according to data from Medical Economics.

Often, those with successful medical careers see moonlighting as a chance to give back. Educating and mentoring the younger physicians affords seasoned doctors yet another way to contribute to the profession in a meaningful way. And, of course, earning additional income through even part-time practice helps ease financial burdens, like residual medical school debt and preparing for retirement. 

Where Do Physicians Find Moonlighting Opportunities?

There are multiple options for finding moonlighting opportunities as a working physician. Here are a few of the most popular:

  • Locum tenens: Many healthcare organizations need physicians to cover when they’re short-staffed or to fill gaps when another physician is on leave. You can often find locum tenens roles within your hospital or clinic or at another one nearby. If not, consider contacting a locum tenens placement agency to help you find opportunities.

  • Rural area assistance: The physician shortage means many rural towns are currently underserved. Even if you live in an urban or suburban area, moonlighting in urban areas on nights and weekends can offer these hospitals and practices a reprieve. Working after-hours shifts often pays better, too.

  • Telemedicine: Another excellent opportunity for moonlighting is telemedicine. This is an especially convenient option because it allows you to work remotely, in the comfort of your own home, between shifts.

Can Moonlighting Violate Your Employment Contract or Residency Terms?

If you’re currently employed by a healthcare organization, be sure to review your employment contract before taking a moonlighting position.

For example, some contracts explicitly forbid employees from practicing within the same geographic area, within the same specialization, or through locum tenens and telemedicine. Additionally, some residency programs allow only their top-performing third-year residents to work outside of their program.

In all cases, it’s a good idea to review any moonlighting opportunities with your supervisor so you can ensure you’re not violating your employment contract or jeopardizing your residency.  

Moonlighting as a physician is a great way to supplement your salary. In fact, in some cases, it can boost annual earnings by as much as 25% or more, according to the same article from Medical Economics mentioned above. 

And for those seeking new challenges and skill development, picking up outside work can reignite your passion for medicine. Just make sure you’re not stepping on your employer’s toes, or you could land yourself in legal hot water.

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