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Side Gigs for Retired Physicians

After dedicating so much of themselves to patient care, retirement is a very different, but hopefully exciting, stage of life for physicians that opens up lots of opportunities to explore things that they may not have had time for during their full time careers. If you're approaching or have reached this benchmark, congratulations! 

Perhaps not surprisingly, many physicians find the idea of going cold turkey on work uncomfortable after devoting, on average, approximately 60 hours a week to their jobs. While we think there’s lots to enjoy in life that is outside medicine (like travel, developing hobbies, or working on passion projects!), many physicians on our online physician communities are understandably concerned about boredom or the sudden change in income. Many post asking for options for part time work, side gigs, or flexible work as they transition into retirement.

Accordingly, we’ve created a list of options for nonclinical work or side hustles for both retired physicians and physicians looking to scale down their clinical practices below. These gigs can vary widely in compensation as well as flexibility and effort, so make sure you have clear goals in mind about what the ideal retirement or ramp down period looks like for you, as you could end up swapping out one full time job for another with some of these!

If you're not retiring, but want to learn more about side gigs for your specific specialty, we'll be releasing one for your specialty as well soon in this new series of side gigs by specialty that we are doing. Keep tabs on recently featured specialties on our side gigs page and in the side gigs section of our blog. In the meantime, follow the series on Instagram.

Unique side gigs for retired physicians

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10 Side Gigs for Retired Physicians

Teaching, Mentorship, and Advising (Includes Writing and Speaking)

Physicians have spent a lifetime teaching, whether or not they’ve worked in an academic setting during their career or not. Through training or mentoring medical students, residents, and fellows, patient education, or even consultation with our colleagues, each of us spends a good amount of time communicating concepts to people who are not as educated in our respective areas of expertise.

If you’ll miss that aspect of your career during retirement, consider picking up a side gig in this realm. There are several potential teaching opportunities available for physicians, including:

  • At a local medical school or residency/training program

  • Undergrad courses at a local university

  • At a physician assistant or nursing program

  • As a physician influencer on the internet

  • As a tutor or advisor for hopeful med school students

  • By creating an online course for patients or other clinicians

  • With local community or advocacy organizations

  • As a patient educator or clinical instructor within the pharmaceutical industry or medical device world

  • As a patient advocate or patient navigator

  • By writing medical content for a health brand, a hospital system, media, or otherwise

There are several ways to get started in traditional in person teaching. If you're interested in working with trainees or students, reach out to your local teaching hospitals and universities and see if there are roles for you that match your interests. There are many mentorship programs as well as the ability to teach courses. If you're interested in working with industry to provide patient or clinician education, reach out to pharma or device reps that you know and see if they'd be interested in working with you. Leverage your colleagues at these institutions or companies to see if they can get you an introduction.

If you're interested in creating a related business, such as an advising or tutoring business or an essay editing business, you can build a brand and advertise within your networks. There are several online platforms to help you get set up and advertised as a tutor online and in-person in your local community. Networking with the local med school or university can help you establish yourself as a trusted source for their students as well.

There are also so many opportunities to get involved with patients, both paid and unpaid. You could create an online course related to common diagnoses or do patient education as an influencer on social media. You could go speak at community organization events and directly educate patients at nursing homes or residential assisted living facilities. You could be a patient navigator who actually helps family navigate their journey with complex medical issues through this confusing healthcare system. Pay for these activities can be quite variable, from completely free/volunteer work, to a modest income related to a teaching or writing gig, or to income that surpasses your clinical income if you build a brand or business and scale it. Keep in mind that the more you get paid, the more it will likely resemble a real job with responsibilities and less flexibility, so have a clear sense of what your objectives are during retirement.

If you’re looking for more non-traditional teaching avenues, we have resources to help.

Learn more

Practice Consulting Business

One thing most of us wish we'd learned more about in medical school is the business of medicine and business skills in general. So many later stage physicians are actually excellent small business owners, and have picked up so many pearls along the way. Despite that, it can feel like we're all reinventing the wheel as most of these skills are passed down by mentorship and word of mouth. Everyday, physicians on our communities are asking for advice about their private practices or starting a private practice.

If you’ve worked in your own private practice for years, you’re the perfect candidate to consult other physicians looking to either start their own practice or improve their current business model. Giving back to the physician community by helping other physicians succeed is something that we’re passionate about, and we’re always so thankful for the input provided to our members on our online physician communities by those later in their careers. 

There are several ways to do this - one on one consultations, creating online content such as a podcast or blog, or joining existing companies that consult in this space.

Learn more

Locums and Other Per Diem Work

If you want to phase out of a full-time position but hope to continue working in some capacity as a practicing physician, per diem work such as locums is a great way to work at a pace and flexibility that you enjoy. It can also afford great opportunities to travel as you phase into retirement, as well as allow you to keep up your physician skills.

So many practices and healthcare organizations are struggling to address clinician shortages and long wait times, and are thankful for any help they can get. We've seen some of our 'retired' physicians work as little as a few shifts a year to 1-2 weeks a month.

Locum tenens contracts can vary in intensity, practice environment, and commitment, so spend some time exploring options and testing the waters for what works best for you as you find that new balance of between professional satisfaction and how much time you’d prefer to spend enjoying the fruits of your financial independence.

Consider working with organizations that cover your malpractice and tail coverage, especially if you're only going to be working sporadically, as one of the tradeoffs of working only occasionally is that the costs of professional licensing, maintenance of certification, and malpractice insurance will likely still need to be offset.

Think about what the ideal locums or per diem position looks like. Looking into places like the VA (where you don't need separate malpractice insurance) and may have one locally could be a great option for physicians who don't want to travel for locums work. As an added benefit, if you love it so much you decide to make it a more formal part time position, you could qualify for benefits and even a pension!

Another great option is doing per diem work at the group you used to work for full time, as that can offer a relatively smooth transition without having to learn a lot of new systems and colleagues or having to travel.

If you actually want to use the positions as an excuse to see new parts of the country, the sky's the limit in terms of opportunities! Test out a few different opportunities and see what works for you. And if you don't want to travel at all, you could look at purely virtual positions!

Learn more

Consultant for Industry

Whether or not you ran a private practice, there are plenty of consulting opportunities in different industries for well-seasoned physicians.

  • Advising a startup (see below)

  • Helping a hospital implement a new electronic health record

  • Consulting an EHR company on their software

  • Giving feedback about a product to a medical device company

  • Giving feedback about a drug in development to a pharmaceutical company

  • Assisting a government administration

  • Assisting lawyers as an expert witness

  • Providing input to a medical drama or to the media

  • Working for a big consulting company

There are no shortages of companies in and outside of the healthcare arena who need the input of physicians. As a consultant, you can leverage your decades of expertise while exploring a new, slower paced opportunity benefitting retirement.

The benefit of these positions is that you generally don't have to learn a new skill to take these jobs (although you will definitely find yourself using different parts of your brain and reexamining things from a different perspective). Many of our physicians welcome this change in thinking about healthcare from the 30,000 foot view and can find it a really interesting and fun way to start a new stage of their careers while still impacting patients.

Learn more

Advisory Board or Foundation Work

Serving on the advisory board for a company or on the board of a foundation is a great way to keep plugged into the healthcare industry even after you’ve retired your stethoscope. Many of these companies don’t have clinicians within their leadership team (and quite honestly, need them).

Similar to the consulting work above, physicians can leverage their expertise in knowing where deficits or the need for innovative ideas are that move the needle in healthcare. They know what works and doesn't work on the ground, as well as what barriers to implementation exist and preclude some solutions that sound good on paper from working in real life. Many of our physicians find these roles incredibly fulfilling.

Depending on the scope of the role, board positions can require a more consistent time requirement than consulting, so you should clarify exactly what your role will entail and how much time you will be expected to commit. Ask about if there are required in person meetings, expectations on turn around time if opinions are asked for, and if there is any liability associated with the position. Sometimes, you may require an errors and omission policy or disclosures of conflicts of interest in other work you take on. Explore and vet different options to help you find the right fit - or fits - for your retirement vision.

These opportunities often come to you rather than seeking them out, so if you’re interested in board positions, use your free time during retirement to network and build those relationships and a reputation within the industry of your interest(s). If you establish yourself as a key opinion leader, you may be surprised how many opportunities present themselves.

Real Estate Investor

Real estate is a popular side gig for our physician community members, especially as their careers progress, student loans and mortgages are paid off, children related expenses decrease, and there is extra money left over in paychecks that can be leveraged to make more money . Real estate investing comes in many forms, depending on your desired level of involvement, offering both passive and active investing opportunities.

Passive real estate opportunities allow you to invest your money and get returns without being hands on. Those that don’t want to deal with the headache of rentals or dealing with property managers may lean toward syndications and real estate investment trusts (REITs). While many associate active real estate investing (short-term, mid-term, or long-term rentals along with commercial real estate) with hassle, there are actually many ways to make this relatively passive by using property management companies. Conversely, if you enjoy these activities, it could be a fun side gig!

A huge benefit of owning cashflowing real estate in retirement is that it can be a great way to generate income to help maintain your lifestyle during retirement without having to dip into your retirement savings.  If you really want to level up, without your full time status as a physician, you could consider doing what it takes to claim the Real Estate Professional Status (REPS) as your tax status, which could actually allow you to shield your income (real estate and otherwise) from taxes.

Not all real estate deals and properties are equal in terms of opportunities and returns, so make sure you explore our real estate resources below to learn more about how to vet deals and properties properly before diving into this exciting new side gig.

Learn more

Non-Clinical Jobs

If you’re ready to retire from practicing medicine but are considering a second, non-clinical career, there are plenty of options to consider, including

  • Chart review

  • Medical writing

  • Insurance medicine

  • Medical device development

  • Pharmaceutical and life sciences industry jobs

These jobs are often available both as a full-time, permanent position or as a side gig, depending on how much you want to work during retirement. These opportunities offer the ability to stay in the healthcare industry and utilize skills you’ve already developed and mastered while cutting out the pressures of acute patient care and allowing you to expand your medical expertise in new, creative ways.

Different non-clinical jobs require different skills, so explore each of them in more detail below if any strike your interest.

Learn more

Nursing Home or Residential Assisted Living Medicine

Nursing homes and residential assisted living facilities often have an attending physician on staff to help care for their residents. There are different roles that exist, such as being a medical director or an actual attending physician that regularly provides care for things that can be treated without having to send the nursing home resident to the hospital. Increasingly, nursing home care is evolving to include not just long-term care for their residents, but post-hospital care for residents’ recovery.

Many physicians find nursing home care very gratifying, as it offers an opportunity to work with a great patient population and bring expertise into a setting that can actually preclude this population from having to seek care in an inpatient setting, avoiding additional possible risks of deconditioning, acquiring other infectious diseases such as pneumonia, or having other complications that can stem from prolonged hospital stays. The nursing home residents (as well as their families) are very appreciative of avoiding the disruptions to daily life that inpatient care can result in as well, as well as the ability to raise concerns and get treatment in a convenient and safe way.

As a nursing facility physician, you can help lead the clinical decision-making to help care for the elders of your community who often don’t have other resources or a means to get to them.

These positions are often readily available online through job boards. Make sure you check in weekly with our Physicians Side Gigs or Physician Community Facebook groups as well, as we post job opportunities on our job board in our weekly recaps.

Concierge Practice

If entrepreneurship is in your blood and you can’t imagine retirement without some continued patient interaction, consider joining or running a concierge practice. With this type of practice, you can be much more selective with the patient populations and conditions that you treat so that you can focus on the aspects of patient care that you enjoy the most. If desired, you can also choose to deal solely with cash pay patients, which has the benefit of reducing some of the struggles so many of us are facing with navigating the increasingly complex policies and procedures set by insurance companies. It also can help mix up your daily routine, especially if you offer home visits or other specialized services as part of your services.

Concierge services are becoming increasingly popular as both patients and physicians become more and more frustrated with the hurdles of the traditional healthcare system. Those who can afford it love to bypass long appointment wait times and their own headaches, such as scheduling appointments and lab work around their busy calendars. On the physician side, while it's frustrating not to be able to provide this level of care to everyone that would benefit from these services, they get to focus on the heart of what they enjoy about medicine, the doctor-patient relationship.

Some concierge practices offer 24/7 support for patients, so this side gig may not be the best fit for physicians looking for extra flexibility of their time in retirement, though you can shape your practice in any way that you choose if your specialty is conducive to it. It can also be worth exploring joining a local existing concierge practice if you’re interested in this model of medicine.

A lot of our resources for starting and running a private practice translate for concierge medicine as well.

Learn more about:

Cruise Ship Medicine

Another unique setting to explore if you wish to continue practicing medicine into retirement but want something different from your career work is cruise ship medicine. Like locums, this opportunity can allow you to travel on someone else’s budget. The cruise industry employs physicians to care for passengers while stuck onboard. If you’ve ever been sick at sea or gotten injured with a golf ball or cannonball gone awry in between ports, you understand firsthand the importance that physicians have to the cruise industry and preserving safety while allowing cruisers to enjoy their vacations.

Understand that the typical cruising population encompasses all ages and health statuses, including a lot of elderly patients with complex medical problems. If you think all that you will be doing is giving a Band-Aid and telling them to follow up with their primary care doctor, you will likely be in over your head. Physicians on our communities who have participated in these gigs have reported stories of everything from falls that just required some sutures to more acute issues like heart attacks, strokes, and pulmonary embolisms that had to be managed on the ship until they were able to divert the ship to get to a port. Infectious diseases spread rapidly on cruise ships, pregnant patients can have pregnancy issues, and other routine medical issues like reactions to allergens and shortness of breath while working out could present themselves.

Cruise lines may pay drastically different rates based on experience level and need as well as desirability of the cruise route, so it's important to understand both the pay and the benefits that you get as a cruise ship physician. Ask about what is included and ask about what is specifically not included. Ask about the commitment that is expected. Most cruise ship physicians report that they are technically always on call even outside of clinic hours, and given the isolated nature of a cruise ship, the ability of a cruise ship physician to be flexible and a team player with a willingness to step up when needed is important. You will be treating patients and cruise ship staff and many will come from different cultural backgrounds and speak different languages.

Cruise lines typically work on contracts that are only a few months long, and many physicians think it is a great opportunity to travel for the part of the year where the weather at home is best avoided. What better way to snowbird than in Aruba? Many cruise ship physicians also enjoy the diversity of the other members of the cruise ship staff and getting to learn about other cultures and experiences.

To get started with this side gig, visit the job listings for various cruise lines you’d enjoy working with. If you don’t see any currently listed, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to their HR department to express your interest in future available contracts.

To read more details about this, read our post on the Cruise Ship Doctor.

Other Side Hustle Ideas for Physician Retirees

If none of the unique side gig ideas above spark your interest, don’t get discouraged. Drop a line in our Facebooks physicians groups to connect with our brilliant hive mind to ask fellow retired doctors what they’ve enjoyed in their second act.

Not sure if you’re financially ready to retire, but you’ve got retirement on the brain? Visit our FIRE: Physicians and Financial Independence page for guidance on determining your financial independence number before hanging up your white coat for your side gig dreams.

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