Facing Economic Strains and Burnout, A Growing Number Of Physicians Considering Side Gigs
In 2023, physicians are faced with numerous career-related challenges and economic strains amidst a growing physician shortage. With rising inflation, a 2% Medicare payment cut, and 63% of U.S. physicians experiencing burnout – an all time high – many physicians have begun to reassess their careers. In search of greater autonomy and work-life balance, they’re exploring side gigs such as Locum Tenens, telemedicine, and moonlighting opportunities.
These workplace trends, along with current insights on physician compensation and physician demand, are highlighted in the 2023 Doximity and Curative Compensation Report. The study – which surveys more than 190,000 full-time U.S. physicians over six years, and 31,000 in 2022 alone – is the largest physician compensation data set in the United States.
“For the first time, Doximity has collaborated with Curative on its annual compensation report, and we’re excited to have contributed data from our job openings,” says Dr. John Mehall, Curative’s Chief Medical Officer. “Physician staffing companies are becoming an increasingly important stakeholder in delivering patient care, as more physicians are turning to alternative employment models to practice medicine.”
The Rise of the Physician Side Gig Economy
Our study found that the average compensation for U.S. physicians decreased slightly, declining 2.4% overall. This trend, coupled with rising inflation, which reached a 40-year high of 9.1% in June 2022, have inspired an increasing number of physicians to look for new opportunities to generate an income, and provide an invaluable role in helping hospitals and healthcare systems maintain coverage.
In a survey we conducted of more than 2,000 physicians, 33% of physicians reported they are likely to pursue a side gig such as Locum Tenens, moonlight, and consulting to adjust for economic factors.
It’s not just economic factors that could be leading physicians to pursue side gigs. In another survey we conducted, 86% of physicians reported being overworked, with more than one-third considering early retirement.
Rather than fully retire, many physicians are turning to the flexible locum tenens employment model, a staffing category that was projected to reach $4.7 billion in 2022. which offers physicians the ability to decide how much they want to work and how often, and avoids much of the administrative burden that characterizes many full-time physician roles. It offers retired physicians an opportunity to teach, and also helps develop new perspectives by treating diverse patient populations.
Physician Demand for Full-Time and Locum Tenens Physicians
After conducting an analysis of the Doximity and Curative jobs posted on the Doximity network in 2022 to assess physician demand by metro area, Tallahassee, FL, and Springfield, IL topped the rankings for both the highest number full-time job openings and the highest number of locum tenens job openings. There is significant overlap between the list of top metros with the highest number of full-time job openings and the list of top metros with the highest number of locum tenens jobs openings, illustrating just how critical the need for coverage is in those areas.
Amongst all specialties, Family Medicine physicians are most in-demand; the shortfall is particularly concerning because family practitioners care for more patients than any other specialty, and serve the majority of America’s rural and urban populations when it comes to primary care.
Psychiatrists are also in great need, taking up two of the top five spots. These results echo many of the statistics that define the growing mental health crisis in the United States. Currently, an estimated 80 million Americans lack adequate access to mental health professionals, with 77% of U.S. counties being considered underserved and 55% of states having a “serious shortage” of child and adolescent psychiatry.
Physicians: “Money Isn't Everything”
In a poll that surveyed over 3,000 physicians, 71% reported they would be willing to accept, or have already accepted, lower compensation in exchange for more autonomy and work-life balance. Overall, nearly 80% of women physicians surveyed reported they would consider, or have already accepted, lower compensation for more autonomy or work-life balance, compared with 66% of men physicians.
For resource-strapped Critical Access Hospitals and Federally Qualified Health Centers who have traditionally found recruiting physicians difficult, the opportunity to sell schedule flexibility, quality of life benefits, and the impact of treating underserved patient populations has never been greater.
Current Hiring Insights and Physician Compensation Trends
Interested in learning more about which metropolitan areas experienced the fastest growing physician compensation, or which specialties have the largest pay gaps between men and women?
To read more insights from the largest physician compensation data set ever assembled, simply download the 2023 Doximity and Curative Compensation Report by filling out the form below.