Although it sounds like something a werewolf may do, “moonlighting” is actually a way to earn extra cash outside of your primary job. Moonlighting is especially common across medicine where the demand for services outweighs the supply of workers. Willing physicians can find an abundance of high paying shifts outside of their normal job duties. These doctors are able to generously supplement their income all while creating more access to care; a win-win situation!
The financial rewards can be significant. The average debt of a graduating medical student is $200,000 according to a 2019 report by the American Association of Medical Colleges. After completion of medical school, physicians must undergo an additional three to seven years of training known as a residency. When factoring in the high number of weekly hours versus the average salary of $57,300 for a resident physician, pay is often not much greater than minimum wage. Many residents turn to moonlighting to provide for their families as these positions often pay well above their daily wages.
In some cases, moonlighting can also provide an opportunity to audition for a full time position. The resident physician gets to see what the practice environment is like while the hiring organization gets to see how the physician works with patients and existing staff.
Residents are often able to moonlight within their own speciality or in more general areas such as working at an urgent care. Typical pay ranges from $100 – $200 per hour depending on speciality, location, and job duties. However, the increase in pay also comes with increased responsibilities; residents often work with minimal or no supervision.
Let’s cover some of the lingo associated with moonlighting. In the medical community there are two types – “internal” moonlighting and “external” moonlighting. In internal moonlighting, the physician is picking up extra shifts at the institution where they are primarily employed. In external moonlighting, the physician is working at an outside institution. There are pros and cons to each.
Medicine is a highly regulated profession. While this has obvious benefits to patients, it makes setting up a moonlighting position for resident physicians difficult. External moonlighting may pay more but it often requires you to have your own independent license to practice medicine, malpractice insurance, and privileges at the new institution. In contrast, if you choose to moonlighting internally, you will already have a training license, malpractice insurance, and privileges.
In addition to satisfying legal requirements, residents must get their program director’s approval. Many non-surgical programs allow their residents to begin moonlighting after second year if they have met the minimum competency standards within the department and remain under the 80 hour weekly limit set by the ACGME. Surgical residents often do not get this luxury, as it is often difficult to remain under duty hours during their regular schedule, let alone with the addition of a moonlighting gig.
Finding Moonlighting Gigs
Finding places that need moonlighters and understand the caveats of hiring a resident physician can be a challenge. According to Student Doctor Network user TexasPhysician, many physicians rely on networking to find good positions.
SDN has recently created a website, moonlighting.org, where you can search for positions specific to resident physicians. Executive director Laura Turner notes that this new site “was born out of the idea of helping our resident SDN users find additional work opportunities while expanding access to care during COVID-19.”
Moonlighting.org is free for both hiring organizations and users who wish to apply for positions. Users can search by both keywords such as specialty and location. Opportunities can be volunteer, temporary, or full-time, and can be short term or longer term locum tenens positions.