No doctor should have to side hustle to make a good living

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I would have thought that all doctors are on the same page about being overworked and underpaid, but I was surprised to read on a recent physician forum that some doctors claim that our profession overall is compensated adequately.  Complacency tends to kill innovation, but hey, to each her own.  Online forums certainly leave a lot of variables on the table — we’ve all seen trolls or even just people who are outliers who claim that their situation is the norm.  These anecdotes exist simply to rile up the crowd.

A personal anecdote is only an anecdote

We all know people who humblebrag their situations, and the internet is a wonderful place to obtain both useful knowledge and plenty of misinformation.  We all know physicians who have very comfortable incomes, traveling the world several times a year in luxury accommodations.  We also have colleagues who are overworked, under-compensated, and stuck in a situation where it’s difficult to rectify.  I suspect that the majority of physicians are in a scenario where their incomes and work hours could be improved, but their situation is tolerable.  None of this is helped when a few vocal outliers misinform the public about our situation.

If you do have a coworker who claims that they are overpaid, their situation could only be in one of two scenarios:

  • They are lying.
  • They really are in a good financial situation, and wishes to brag about their success.

Either way, one can easily see how misinformation could potentially torpedo our profession. If the general public gets the impression that our profession is overpaid, you’d better believe that reimbursement cuts are going to be in the books.  If our job is so easy, allied health professions will continue to push to take over our specialties. Doctors need to unify. It is actually disappointing to see that there is dissent among our peers.  Medicine, for centuries, has always been a profession reserved for the most competent and erudite.  This inherently perpetuates unhelpful egotism into our field.  At a time where our profession is most vulnerable to politics and health care reform, we frankly don’t need to have outliers misleading society into believing that something uncommon is the norm.

Fight for what you deserve

Ultimately, our ability to be compensated adequately for our expertise and commitment into our profession requires each one of us to understand how much we are worth.  It is not easy to navigate the waters of health care reimbursement to figure out who is getting a piece of the pie that you helped create.  However, that is the only way that we can make progress to getting our fair share.

Our physician colleagues who espouse financial independence and side income have all developed strategies to become immune to the evolution of our profession — having an alternative means of income frees them from being dependent upon the health care system that individually we cannot redirect.

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket, as one might say.

This is an admirable and effective strategy to spread your bets across the playing field.  However, doctors shouldn’t have to play the entire field.  Just as how an airline pilot or any other profession shouldn’t have to “side hustle,” doctors should be able to live a comfortable lifestyle practicing their profession.  There is nothing wrong with diversifying your interests, but going through the rigors of medical training only to find your calling in something else seems to be a circuitous means to an end.

Perhaps the way that we need to approach our profession is to make our life choices strategically to becoming less dependent on our physician incomes, and using that buffer to fight for more adequate compensation in our profession.

No doctor should have to side hustle to make a good living.

“Smart Money, MD” is an ophthalmologist who blogs at the self-titled site, Smart Money MD.

Image credit: Shutterstock.com

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