For some happy doctors, medicine is a hobby


“A hobby is an activity, interest, enthusiasm, or pastime that is undertaken for pleasure or relaxation, typically done during one’s own time.”
– Wikipedia

“A job is often defined as a regular activity pastime performed in exchange for payment.”
– Wikipedia

If you search “hobby” on Wikipedia, you’ll be presented with a lengthy list of the most common ones: everything from magic to beekeeping to vehicle restoration. But if you look at these “hobbies” closely, you may notice that any of those could be a vocation as well.

So at what point do we begin to differentiate between something we do in our free time, something we enjoy, and our day job? Where do we draw the line?

It appears, then, that what separates a job from a hobby isn’t necessarily how regularly it’s performed, but rather it’s the notion of doing it for pleasure, on your own time. As for payment, certain hobbies do produce an income.

The finances behind being a doctor are quickly reaching an unsustainable position. Rising student loan debts can put new graduates behind by more than 200k right off the bat, and it’s a fact that reimbursements are decreasing. Couple that with limited autonomy in medicine and micromanagement from administrators and it seems that, in some ways, doctors have become a slave to the system. Put simply, it’s become a job, and any pleasure one used to derive from the notion of helping people is quickly moved to the back burner.

Because of this and other reasons, more and more physicians’ careers are being cut short. There are physicians burning out and pursuing non-clinical careers both in and outside of medicine. Physicians are searching for happiness in the field, and at this point, we have to ask: Is that even possible?

Well, at the risk of sounding like a pessimist, I believe that without significant change, this situation won’t be improving anytime soon. No matter how much you enjoy something, if you’re forced to do it, it’ll become a chore. I love golfing, for example, but if I needed to do it to put food on the table, it wouldn’t be the same.

One day it occurred to me that the solution to this burnout epidemic may be to simply turn medicine into a hobby rather than a job; something we enjoy rather than something that virtually enslaves us. But how?

The way to achieve this is by not having to rely on it financially. Financial independence from medicine is possible for doctors; just look at doctors like the White Coat Investor or Physician on Fire. Each says they practice medicine because they enjoy it and they’re not ready to give it up yet. Based on my own income report, I’m getting close to that point as well.

But how does that happen? Well, it all begins with smart financial decisions made early in your career, like saving aggressively and investing wisely. I’ve seen doctors make clever investments in the stock market or real estate (or both) and achieve this “medicine as hobby” status.

This means you have to educate yourselves to make those wise financial decisions and that needs to start early: as early as residency or even medical school. It means having the dedication and commitment to making it happen when so many of your colleagues decide to buy that fancy car right out of training. It means taking some calculated risks and being willing to devote some time and energy to seeking out the right ventures. It means seeking out the wisdom of other physicians who have already achieved the goals you’re working toward.

As unlikely as it may seem, medicine as a hobby is an achievable goal. I enjoy practicing medicine, and that’s why I never want it to be just a job. My goal with all these passive income ventures is not so I can quit my day job completely, it’s so I can enjoy it fully, and on my own terms, by making it a hobby.

“Passive Income, MD” is a physician who blogs at his self-titled site, Passive Income M.D.

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