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Updated: November 14, 2021
By Jordan P. Roberts, PA-C

Why Clinicians Seek Non-Clinical Side Hustles

The “side hustle” has exploded in popularity in the mainstream media in recent years. Physicians and other clinicians who enter the workforce saddled with debt are taking notice.

Historically entrepreneurial by nature, physicians are increasingly pressured by hospital buyouts, insurance company market domination, and other M&A activity. 

This has led to attention grabbing headlines reporting informing us the vast majority of physicians are now employed. Even without further context, you can infer this is a significant shift in how healthcare works in the United States.

And to nobody’s surprise, a lot of us healthcare professionals don’t like being told how to do our jobs by someone who doesn’t know the difference between an artery and a vein. 

So interest in FIRE (financial independence / retire early), side hustles, business ownership, and other entrepreneurial topics grows among those in the medical community.

How Clinicians Seek Non-Clinical Side Hustles

Thanks to ride-sharing, house-sharing, and other segments of the ‘gig economy,’ it has never been easier to start a side hustle. And from now on, let’s call it what it really is. A business. If you have a ‘side gig,’ you have a business. Congratulations.

That said, it’s hard for clinicians to justify  spending any amount of time delivering takeout to  stoned college kids as a side gig or (soon-to-be failing) business. Taking a locums gig or picking up a few urgent care shifts makes way more sense financially and cognitively.

Sure, it’s not hard to find anecdotes, cohorts even, of clinicians who make boatloads of money in real estate.  However,  that’s not what I’d consider s a true non-clinical side hustle. Neither is any gig that ends in you bleaching emesis out of your backseat at 3AM on Saturday.

Many of us moonlight at outside clinics, round at a hospital or other facility, take extra call, or perform telemedicine consults. You might say that healthcare professionals are the original side-hustlers. But those aren’t nonclinical businesses, either.

So what if you want a way to increase your income – that doesn’t involve seeing more patients – and keep you cognitively stimulated, delivers a sense of meaning, and is personally fulfilling?

Well then you are in the right place. We’re exploring several non-clinical side hustles in this series to get your inspiration a boost. To start, we’re looking at various, non-traditional options for teaching, as well as a related topic – medical writing.

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Non-Clinical Side Hustles for Physicians, PAs, & Nurse Practitioners

Welcome to our series on non-clinical side hustles. In each article, we’ll discuss non-clinical side hustles that any clinician can start, regardless of the letters after your name.

Some are more lucrative than others, but the barriers to entry are surprisingly low for medical professionals.

Of course, thinking you can do them all may not be realistic. Therefore, finding one or two that fit your skills and schedule can have a powerful effect on your income and quality of life.

In this first post, we will cover teaching (but not in the way you think) and medical writing. Next, part II will explore public speaking and show you a convenient way to start earning from your anonymous opinions with paid medical survey panels.

Part III takes an in-depth look at entrepreneurship. You won’t want to miss the accompanying podcast that features a clinician who’s had multiple successful businesses. 

Who knows – maybe one of these non-clinical side hustles could become a full-time career!

Teaching

To begin, let’s get one thing clear. Yes, academia, even teaching medical education, is not clinical, but it’s not exactly a groundbreaking idea, either.

We’ve all fantasized about how nice it would be. Working regular hours, and only between nine and five. No more middle-of-the-night phone calls. No more involuntary overtime.

You can even start going by the nickname ‘professor’ to all your students (and friends and family). And if you really wanted to get into it, maybe you’d even wear a bow-tie to work.

Maybe.

It is a different world from that of clinical practice, to be sure. However, just like bedside healthcare is not for everyone, neither is full-time academics.

That’s because you’ll need public speaking skills if you don’t want to bore your students to sleep. Additionally, you’ll need to learn how to design a good curriculum for adult learners.

Furthermore, remember how much work you were for your professors?
Imagine having to deal with that, multiplied by the number of students you teach, and do that every day. So much for regular, nine to five hours.

So what can you do instead if you aren’t ready to take that plunge?

CME Library

Part-Time Lecturing at a Health Professions University

Depending on where you live, the local university healthcare program is the preferred initial investigation. See what I did there?

Reach out to the programs in your area and determine if there is a need for a guest speaker or adjunct faculty with your expertise.

And don’t artificially limit yourself to your degree program.

As a clinician, you almost certainly have something valuable to share with our future colleagues of all disciplines.

Double that if you have specialty knowledge that can apply across the healthcare team. From postgraduate lectures to hands-on EMT courses, think outside the box.

Non-University Lecturing

But why stop there? Other – sometimes non-university-based trainees – are also in need of your skills. Your local technical courses, medical assistant programs, and other students of procedural disciplines need good teachers.

Do you take ACLS and BLS every two years, however begrudgingly? Would you rather get paid to teach it than have to spend your CME money on what ultimately may be an obligation, depending on your specialty?

Think it through like any business opportunity. How much does the course cost to take, not including the books?

Multiply that by the number of potential students AND the number of classes per month you’d like to hold. Subtract the overhead you pay to become an instructor and potential franchisee fees.

There’s your formula to ensure your non-clinical side hustles return a reliable monthly income.

Too much work? How much will it cost you to hire instructors who can expand your course reach while reducing your workload? I don’t have the answers, but the fact that there are businesses out there doing this is, at a minimum, proof of concept and viability. 

Admittedly, getting up in front of groups of other humans might be unappealing, if not downright terrifying to some. If you are of the majority who’d rather die than give a public talk, but dialectically feel drawn towards education, consider one of these options below.

Teach on the Internet

Don’t neglect online marketplaces that allow you create your own classes from home and reap the rewards for years to come. Your material can be for patients, administrators, or even CME-accredited for other medical professionals.

There are several of these out there, with business models ranging from percentage-based fees to flat rate billing depending on your needs. Kajabi, and Teachable come to mind first.

To highlight the possibilities, here’s a CME-accredited dermatopathology activity for PAs created by a dermatopathologist. For $45 bucks! And getting publicity from us! (Seriously, get this dermatopathology CME before we convince them to raise the price, because it’s worth way more than the asking price if you ask me.)

That was is built with Kajabi, but, Teachable also lets you to record lectures to build a course, set your price, and make money while you sleep. They will even teach you how to make your course profitable for free.

The general consensus is that selling a course produces optimal results for those who have an existing audience of paying followers.

However, if you are trying to build one or simply demonstrate your expertise in a particular subject, creating your own course is a great idea.

Non-Clinical Side Hustle: Medical Writing

There is a lot more to this topic than we can cover here. For a more detailed look, read this. Below, we’ll discuss three options for turning medical writing into a non-clinical side hustle.

First, we’ll cover medical education. Next is a look at getting into the publishing industry.

The last part will teach you about an area that is truly under-utilized by clinicians but is highly influential: traditional media opportunities. 

Continuing Medical Education

Someone has to create, edit, and produce all the continuing medical education we so voraciously consume. Clinicians have always – and rightly so -demanded high-quality and uniquely relevant educational content.

Today, the current trend is also toward engaging and entertaining medical content, like HIPPO’s Reviews and Perspectives. Finding contributors who can meet this need is incredibly difficult, even when searching a pool of otherwise talented clinicians.

Therefore, content-driven companies need a healthy budget if they don’t want the final product to be a financial flop.

Just like our medical services collect a premium, our non-clinical services are just as valuable, if not more so.  

Medical Publishing

On the consumer side, there are myriad opportunities for clinicians who have an inner medical writer they are hoping to nurture. 

For example, many clinicians have written and published their own books. Here’s one such collection of medical children’s books.

If you are a science fiction fan, you might enjoy this new novel written by a neurology PA. It tells the story of a neurosurgeon, a neurosurgical PA, and how the corporate and ethical struggles we all face in real life can affect anyone. 

Writing your own book can be rewarding, but it’s not easy. This is especially true when it comes to publishing it.

For this, there are generally two options. You can go through a traditional publisher or do it yourself. Both have their own benefits and drawbacks, but these are topics for another day.

To learn the basics of publishing, take a look at this book

Media

“Medical writing” is generally called “health writing” when it’s directed to a lay audience. Because just about anyone can be a health writer, there are some important things to know before diving in.

Not every outlet that will accept your writing is worth your time, energy, or reputation to work with. Think about it like this. How many articles written by a “health writer” smell fishy from a mile away?

Of course, there are plenty of good health writers and platforms out there. Even so, health writing would only benefit from an increase in thoughtful, intelligent clinicians sitting at the editorial helm. 

A good (non-clinician) health writer or journalist will find one or more expert sources for their story, in addition to other reputable resources. In a similar vein, a good source will speak to the topics they know and avoid the ones they don’t.

In fact, journalists are asking for our help more often than we realize. So if you can communicate coherently and don’t mind the publicity, you might be the public’s next medical darling.

If you want to help a reporter out and look like a rock star in the process, sign up for HARO (help a reporter out).

How to Start Your Medical Writing Side Hustle

Getting started is the hardest part. But by getting here, you’ve already taken the first step. A good old-fashioned Google search can get you even further.

Another action is to ask your published colleagues about their experience. And by published, we mean in any format that interests you, not strictly peer-reviewed journals.

You can even ask me if you like. There are so many opportunities out there that you are bound to run into something good if you are persistent.

SEAK is a well-known promoter of non-clinical opportunities, including medical writing. They have a comprehensive book about non-clinical careers available now. 

Like your clinical work, evaluate every opportunity carefully. Plenty of companies are willing to pick up any writer who just asks nicely and will turn over their copyright.

The problem is that not all content is created equally. Some shady players count on hiring the cheapest person possible to crank out half-baked content.

This is the GIGO rule incarnate. Garbage in = garbage out.

You don’t want to be on either side of that equation, especially if your name might be associated with the final product.

You Might Also Like:

The Most Lucrative Paid Medical Survey Panels Physicians and Other Clinicians Can Join

Where to Apply Medical Writing Skills

Clinician-Focused (B2B)

The good news is that there is no shortage of good companies in need of your expertise. You might start by looking for part-time or as needed opportunities.

Check your favorite websites, medical journals, online communities, or educational institutions for openings. A lot of them are on our job board, so register as a candidate here, too.

Another effective way to land more clients is with simple, but tedious, outreach. Personalized and thoughtful outreach works better than blasting hundreds of copy and pasted emails with “Dear editer” as the introduction. By the way, it never hurts to double check your writing before hitting send. That, or ask a real editor for help.

For your outreach, determine your ideal client or company with whom you’d like to write. On their website, search for the ‘contact’ page. For example, here is ours. Extra points if you can get the name of the boss.

Send an email briefly describing your clinical and professional background and interest in contributing. That’s it! Well, almost. Repeat indefinitely until you are satisfied with the result. Oh, and be sure to have a writing sample ready to go when someone responds.

You might be surprised by just how many publishers are always looking for clinician help. All of the resources you use for CME need clinicians to create, edit, fact-check, peer-review, or plan the content. You may even be able to earn CME while creating CME!

Patient-Focused (B2C)

Don’t forget about the general public. Sites like WebMD and About.com have armies of part-time clinician writers. They may, however, require more of a commitment from you should you choose to join them.

But if you are up for creating it, content that helps patients have more productive visits with their healthcare providers is worth its weight in gold.

Because the number of patients far outweighs the number clinicians in existence, this market dwarfs its clinical counterpart. This means exponentially more potential ‘customers’ who you can hope become paying customers.

However, the barrier to entry is lower, which leads to more people competing for a single position. Because of the theory of supply and demand, this increased competition may drive down individual contributors’ rates.

This is also where notorious ‘content mills’ live. As we have alluded, it’s a good idea to keep an eye out for predatory behavior.

And whatever you do, don’t forget that you have unique medical expertise. That is worth a premium, and accept no less for your hard work.

Because if you don’t write it, somebody off the street who doesn’t have anywhere near your expertise or insight will. And that doesn’t help the client, the industry, or most of all, the patient.

How to Start Your Non-Clinical Career

For clinicians, writing and editing go hand-hand-in-hand with teaching. But for a unique and lucrative side hustle, the clinician who thinks outside the box gets the best results.

Thinking of giving it a shot but don’t like the idea of teaching or writing? For more ideas, read part II of the series where we explore the speaking circuit and ways to get paid for your opinion with medical market research surveys.

If you found this piece helpful, please share it with someone who you think could benefit from it. And if you want to keep up with posts like this, sign up for our email list below. 

First Published: January 14, 2018

Further Reading

VisualDx + DermExpert Review

VisualDx is a user-friendly artificial intelligence-enhanced visual clinical decision support system that can be used in just about every specialty. It is available on desktop, android, iOS, and is one tool that I personally think is a must-have for all practicing clinicians.

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