The traditional physician practices out of one medical group and stays in that position for years after residency. They might move to a different medical group if they move with their family – otherwise, it’s fairly predictable. The digital nomad doctor lifestyle is quite the opposite.
The traditional physician, as well as the digital nomad, will both deal with a few career hurdles. They might be mentioned in a malpractice suit, deal with a medical board investigation, or get fired from a job.
I won’t argue for one over the other but I have chosen to be a digital nomad doctor after a career as a traditional physician in a large medical group.
My decision to make the change came from how I view clinical medicine these days. It’s likely skewed because of my own biases but I haven’t been able to convince myself otherwise.
I view clinical medicine in the US as a system that manages to make a lot of money for insurance groups, hospital systems, and the pharmaceutical industry despite how disorganized it is.
Like any large system, it can only have one main focus, and that’s profits. But we don’t have any smaller systems which can compete. There are no mini-ERs or mini-hospitals. And all the private physician practices are disappearing.
In order to compete or even gain entry into the healthcare system as a private physician or physician group, the amount of spending and planning is unsurmountable.
Practicing Medicine in 2021
I want to practice medicine, which actually shocks me. I thought I’d dislike clinical practice after all the drama I went through with the state medical boards.
So, there is the practice of medicine where you’re sitting with a patient and discussing their health issues. There, you don’t feel any obligation to the patient, you’re simply being true to your professional and making your expertise available to that person.
Then there is the US medical system where you are the father, mother, and priest of the patient. All you say and do is monitored and can be extracted from your cell phone and laptop. Your goal is to make it to the finish line without getting sued or losing your license.
The Digital Nomad Doctor
As a digital nomad doctor, I’m not that much more insulated but I get to enjoy a little more slack in the system.
I am not tied to any one medical group. Which means that I won’t be at their mercy. When Kaiser Permanente opened an investigation on me in 2017 they didn’t have my back – it was ugly and deceitful. I felt betrayed because I had put so many hard-working years into that company.
I am not sure why I expected loyalty from KP, that was an unrealistic expectation on my part.
Now, I have multiple gigs from which I earn an income. Most of it is clinical and the rest is based on my knowledge as a physician.
As a digital nomad doctor, I have more than just multiple sources of income and multiple clients. I also have the ability to live where I want when I want. Location Advantage
The nomad part of the digital nomad doctor lifestyle isn’t intentional. It’s part of the package, however. Being a nomad means that I don’t depend on one single system for too long.
If I live in California and the cost of living skyrockets I have the option to move. That’s the advantage of being a nomad.
The disadvantage is that you lose some of your physical friends. But not all – that’s where the digital part comes in.
As a digital nomad doctor, I have a strong online presence. I have made good friends online and these are people I can visit whenever I travel from one place to another.
Making Money Online
The digital nomad doctor makes their money mostly online. But they can also work in different places for short periods of time. They earn their money in high-playing places and spend it in cheaper places.
Cheap isn’t bad. Portland is cheap and so is Spain. I love them both. I can earn my income in California and spend the money there.
But the digital nomad lifestyle is even better. Instead of living in California for a few months during a locum tenens stint I can earn my money online through telemedicine, consulting, or selling digital products.
The digital tools online are far more efficient than anything we have built physically. Initially, it takes some work to get going and learn about all the tools but after a while, you’ll be an expert.
Joy of Nomad Living
The digital nomad policy online will tell you that you have to move every 3 months and should only own a backpack. That you should broadcast your newest location and take a photo with your lappy on the beach.
There are no rules, no expectations. As a digital nomad doctor, you get to decide on everything and make it fit your own style.
I have decided to live for several months or years at a time in one place and then move on. At any point, if I love a place enough I’ll settle down longer. Or I’ll buy a place as I did in Spain, and in Portland.
Right now I’m traveling in Mexico and loving Oaxaca. I made great friends here and I am still in touch with my friends in Spain. At some point in the near future, I’ll return to Spain.
Nothing is written in stone. I can go back to the US at any time and work there for a few months. Or I can come up with new methods of earning an income online – it’s up to me.
Spending Money Abroad
If I enjoyed traditional work as a physician I’d partake in the economy like everyone else. I’d earn my income, feel secure in my employment, purchase goods and services, and pay taxes.
I don’t view the US medical system as a sustainable healthcare system. I am reluctant to rely on it for my career. That’s why this digital nomad doctor lifestyle makes sense to me.
I can earn my money online in the US and spend it abroad in Spain, Mexico, or Southeast Asia. I can still pay my taxes in the US while residing abroad.
Or I can become a tax resident abroad and maintain my bank accounts and medical licenses in the US.
Working Abroad as a Physician
What I didn’t know until recently is that I can also practice abroad as a physician. Even though my US medical license doesn’t have a far reach, I can go through the process of convalidation and get a medical license abroad.
I get my medical license in Spain, and I can get my license in Mexico, and several other Spanish-speaking countries.
That’s the huge advantage of learning another language. By learning Spanish I can extend my reach and have many more work and job opportunities.
This new digital nomad doctor lifestyle is appealing to me because it satisfied my curiosity about learning a new language, traveling, practicing medicine abroad, and finding adventure.