Changes are a constant in the healthcare industry. From shifting reimbursement models to a growing paperwork burden, the longstanding approach to practicing medicine is often unrecognizable in this new environment. In response, the traditional physician job path is also evolving.
Sixty-nine percent of respondents in the 9th annual Physicians Practice Great American Physician Survey reported that they would consider going part time. And while about two-thirds (64 percent) of respondents don’t want to change workplaces, 29 percent said the main reason why they would prefer to work somewhere else is to work better hours or achieve greater work-life balance.
A growing number of respondents (46 percent) said they would consider becoming a locum tenens physician, suggesting the traditional work environment is no longer as appealing to the 91 percent of respondents who have been practicing at least 11 years.
Today, physicians are increasingly open to the idea that they no longer need to be—or perhaps even want to be—tied to a single employer. Portfolio careers, where physicians have the flexibility to pursue multiple areas of focus and manage multiple revenue streams, are gaining traction. This strategy can provide high levels of job satisfaction, some much-desired mental stimulation, and a good income, too.
Building a portfolio around passion
It often begins with a desire to make learning a lifelong endeavor and to keep things fresh. “There are so many things I’m interested in, so if you told me I could only do one thing I’d struggle with that,” says Heath A. Jolliff, DO, FACMT, an emergency medicine physician in Columbus, Ohio. Multiple passions are a common thread among doctors who pursue portfolio careers.
Jolliff noticed that working in the ER brought challenges that fascinated him, and it didn’t take long for him to realize there weren’t many others focusing on them. This gap in expertise provided Jolliff an opportunity to pursue something new and interesting. He’s dedicated himself to emergency medicine for 25 years, and for the past 18 years he has also worked in the subspecialty of medical toxicology.
Today, he satisfies his passion through clinical teaching jobs at two different hospitals, Ohio University’s Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine and OhioHealth Doctors Hospital. These roles give Jolliff a way to share his vast knowledge in the areas of emergency medicine and medical toxicology (and to promote a similar passion) with medical students.
In addition, Jolliff owns his own company, Mid-Ohio Toxicology Services, a firm that provides consulting to a variety of clients—patients, physicians, and legal teams—on toxicology issues such as evaluation of potential poisonings, forensic reviews, risk assessments, and similar expert analysis.
Pairing opportunities and interests
Heidi Moawad, MD, didn’t set out to have a portfolio career. Like many doctors who find themselves taking on new or additional responsibilities, she started by pursuing areas of interest. Along the way, she sought out a schedule and workload that best fit her growing family’s changing needs.
While practicing neurology, she began talking with fellow physicians about ways to shape a career that suited her preferences. A number of her colleagues expressed similar desires, but during these conversations Moawad discovered there was very little information available about nonclinical jobs. She decided to write a book on the subject, a move that brought her into the publishing world.
As Moawad worked to finish her book, Careers Beyond Clinical Medicine, she also taught at a nearby college. Both of these roles were part time, a structure that offered her the flexibility she needed to care for her young children. Additional writing work, mostly small contracts in the early years, followed as she developed the right relationships.
These linked but disparate roles didn’t replace Moawad’s income from her neurology work right away, but she gathered more work in the following years. She now holds faculty positions at Case Western Reserve University and John Carroll University, both in Cleveland, Ohio. Today, her time commitment and reimbursement, plus teaching, writing and consulting work, are on par with a full-time clinical neurologist position.