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Becoming a Part-Time Physician

I didn’t think this topic needed a dedicated article, but here we are. If you are a full-time physician and want to work part-time or per diem or moonlight or just work less, this article might help.

I’m a part-time physician, myself. When I’m on the road pretending to be a digital nomad, I do some telemedicine and a little bit of my consulting work. Nothing full-time and almost always a rather flexible schedule.

Advantages of Being a Part-Time Doctor

I’m not trying to convince anyone of becoming a part-time physician. But there are some advantages to this and plenty of disadvantages.

1. Less Work Politics

When you’re full-time, you are knee-deep in it. Your boss will ride you, your scheduler will ride you, the nurses are all up in your business, and you’ll get sucked into every single clinic/hospital decision.

As a part-timer, you’re considered temporary. People don’t even expect you to check your work email. And if you don’t clear the inbasket they’ll just kindly remind you that you should do it.

2. Lower Expectations

Patients, staff, and managers will expect less of you. After all, you only do surgery at this site once a month. You only round on patients at this hospital every 2 weeks. And you only come to this clinic once a week.

You aren’t a regular so you aren’t expected to take sides, have political work opinions, or use the pee bathroom for your #2s.

3. More Money

You have to spend a lot more money to run a full-time household. I don’t have kids that I know of but I can imagine hiring a nanny, a tennis teacher, a horse, and maid add up rather quickly.

When you work part-time as a doctor, you have more free time and can make more financially sound decisions.

In urgent care work, I can also negotiate higher hourly rates because I act as a float. I go to whatever site they ask me to go to and don’t call in sick, which gives me lots of negotiating power.

4. More Flexibility

This is obvious—I can ask to show up to a shift later, leave sooner, or not be scheduled at a distant site.

5. Less Medical Malpractice Risk

Your risk of medical malpractice is proportional to your dickiness, exhaustion, and frequency of patient interactions. Fewer patients, more rest, and less exhaustion mean less chance of getting sued.

6. Less Chance of Burnout

Of course, we all know that yoga and mindfulness is as curative for burnout as the latest and greatest chemotherapy drugs passed by the FDA.

Work less, see fewer patients, and spend more time with loved ones to decrease your chances of burnout.

7. Less Taxes

I don’t care much about taxes because you won’t find a developed nation with taxes as low as ours. The effort required to lower taxes is enormous, and I’m enjoying life too much to want to do it. I did it back in my wealth accumulation days, but I’m even too lazy now to link to those articles back in 2016 on this site.

Working less means lower taxes. Also, the dollars you earn after your first couple of hundred thousand dollars are taxed at a higher tax bracket, so you get less money for more work.

8. Higher Income:Effort Ratio

The effort/income ratio is something I have extracted from my own rectum. Simply, the more you work in a given day the more tired you are. Each subsequent patient and decision is harder and harder, which means that it comes at a higher cost but at the same pay.

Work fewer hours per day or fewer shifts per week, schedule fewer surgeries, and you’ll make more money for the given effort.

Why Do You Want to Work Part-Time?

What’s your motivation

  • get a break from the old battle axe?
  • less time in the OR?
  • more time to take care of your health?
  • more time to read?
  • more time to enjoy nature?
  • more time to take trips?
  • escape office politics?

This is an important question because some doctors will go part-time and go insane because they don’t know what to do with all their free time.

Working part-time as a doctor requires you to have some decent financial management skills and have a plan with your free time.

Your Income Needs – Cutting Expenses

And, yes, working less means less income, and you’ll have to handle finances better. Fortunately, most doctors are incredibly wasteful when it comes to their spending.

How do I know? If your child’s life was in danger and you needed to save 90% of what you earn for a year to pay for their life-saving surgery, could you? Would you? Ya betcha.

Here is everything wasteful I’m spending money on right now off the top of my head. And I don’t even own a car:

  • multiple website domains
  • extra email accounts
  • essential oils
  • tofu & hummus
  • coffee
  • wine
  • gadgets
  • monthly software subscriptions
  • unnecessary Lyft rides
  • unnecessary home “repairs”
  • excess utility usage
  • too high of an internet subscription
  • extra apartments I don’t need to own
  • unnecessary medical licenses
  • unnecessary Uptodate subscription
  • Google storage
  • dining out
  • gifts

Becoming a Part-Time Doctor

To become a part-time doctor you’ll first have to stop relying on the reason why many take on a full-time job in the first place:

  • health insurance
  • retirement benefits
  • higher income
  • perceived employment security
  • workaholism

You can purchase your own health insurance. The amount you’re working to get your Cadillac work plan isn’t worth it. That’s been proven over and over again.

You get a pension plan, yes, but you are working your ass off for it. I walked away from a Kaiser pension, and I’m still alive. You can build your own retirement nest egg like the other 90% of the population.

You don’t have more job xecuriy because you’re working full-time. That’s all in your head. Your ass can get canned in a NY minute.

Finally, workaholism is a real thing. It’s looked down on to navel gaze or binge-watch Netflix, but it’s totally okay to work more and make more money. The end result for all of these is the same.

More Flexibility = Less Income

So how do you overcome the biggest problem, the lower income? Working part-time, you go from 45 hours a week to about 25 – give or take. That’s a nearly 50% income loss.

First, just know that you can get by on $150k, or for some of you, $300k. You can still own a very nice home, send your kids to good schools, buy a Tesla, and take vacations.

The only reason it doesn’t feel that way now is because you’re living on Pill Hill, and your neighbors are all making $2.5M a year. Sure, you’d be quite poor next top them.

But if you were to relocate, downsize, or move to a neighborhood where most people are making $150K, your $200K is worthy of bragging right again.

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