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5 Reasons Side Gigs Make Better Docs


Having a side gig can help you learn new skills and earn extra money, but it can also help you become a better doctor.

Having a side gig can help you learn new skills and earn extra money, but it can also help you become a better doctor. Here are five reasons side gigs can make you a better doctor:

1. Increase creativity and the capacity to problem solve.

“The young doctor should look about early for an avocation, a pastime, that will take him away from patients, pills, and potions … No one is really happy or safe without one.”—Sir William Osler

As much as medicine is an all-consuming career, it is neither safe nor effective to let medicine consume us. We must not abandon the activities that remind us of who we are beyond “Dr. So-and-So.” Sir William Osler urges us to seek something outside of medicine to restore our humanity and recharge our minds so that we may return to the bedside an even more empathetic and effective doc.

2. Increase happiness.

Acts of kindness are proven by research to be a tremendous source of lasting, profound happiness. Contributing to the society in a role other than that of a doc not only refreshes us, but also provides an additional sources of happiness.

3. Increase the balance between control and flexibility.

It’s a funny thing: many of us doctors have Type-A personalities in the most anti-Type-A profession. We have high standards for our work and expect our those surrounding us to reciprocate our work ethic and extensive considerations. When we don’t get that, we are discouraged and frustrated.

Additionally, our multi-stage, life-long training and certification process has imposed on us a nomadic lifestyle. Ask a premed, “Where are you going for med school?” “Anywhere that takes me.” Ask a MS4, “Where are you going for residency?” “Anywhere that takes me.” Ask a PGY resident, “Where are you going for fellowship?” “Anywhere that takes me.” Ask a PGY fellow, “Where are you going for a job?” “Anywhere that takes me.”

See a pattern?

As much as we like to have control, we soon find that we have less than 50% control over our professional and personal life, especially in our training years. We have no control over where we go, how many hours we work, and most importantly, we have no control over patient compliance, most of the time.

Having side gigs usually means turning a hobby turn into a job, where for once, You are the boss of you and your business.

Taking control once in a while, can be quite energizing.

4. Increase efficiency.

“When you get tired of studying, take a break and go (fill in the blank with a household chore).” Wise Money Gourmet, Dr. Wise Money’s mom, used to say this a lot.

Early in my childhood, my mom has taught me that rotating between various tasks/jobs will increase my efficiency, allowing me to accomplish more house chores and perform better on my exams using less time. The more I do, the more time I find to do more.

She brainwashed me well with this self-fulfilling belief: Indeed, the more I do, the more efficient I get.

This has allowed me to be a single mother to a 3-year-old, work two jobs, and manage top of my class in medical school.

I find myself much more efficient as a radiology resident/mother/tutor/blogger when I do all four.

Otherwise, I just grow into my free time like people grow into their income (I term this the hedonic treadmill of time.) I accomplish less the more free time I have.

5. Increase cash flow.

"Don’t follow money, let it follow you" has always been my mantra.

I started tutoring pro bono before I turned 10 as my teacher told me after school one day, “You are doing well in class, go ahead and help this and that struggling classmates.”

Twenty-two years and about 10,000 hours later, I’m now making $388 per hour when I tutor.

I’m was not chasing after money when I first sat down next to my baffled and helpless classmate in our 3rd grade classroom. Money followed me as I follow my instincts on where I think I could serve those around me.

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