12 Ways to Earn Extra Income From Medical Activities

Leigh Page


December 17, 2013

In This Article

Have a Little Fun While You Work

11. Staff Medical Tents at Runs and Other Events

Physicians can get short-term locum tenens jobs to staff medical tents at special events, such as walks and runs, music festivals, and health screenings.

The work, also called "nontraditional locum tenens," could provide a novel way for doctors to travel and practice medicine outside of just taking extra hospital shifts.

While "the vast majority" of locum tenens assignments are longer-term, there are some opportunities for work that lasts just a day or two, says Jason Daeffler, marketing director at Barton Associates, a locum tenens staffing company in Peabody, Massachusetts. "Recently, we've seen some demand from music festivals and other festivals."

In May, for example, Barton Associates was looking for locum tenens dermatologists to perform free cancer screenings for a few days at an event. The dermatologists performed an 8- to 10-minute scan of each person, and if they found any lesions, they were instructed to ask patients to see a local dermatologist.

Daeffler would not reveal payments for these short-term engagements, but he said, "It's a very competitive hourly rate. Providers can definitely earn more than they would at a permanent position."

Dr. Kennealy, the career coach, believes these short-term offerings are rare. "Being paid for special events is very limited," she said. Some marathons have an all-volunteer staff working their medical tent.

However, physicians may inadvertently run into opportunities. Dr. Kennealy said she was once paid to serve as physician to an opera singer from abroad while she was performing in town. Because the singer lived in Europe and did not have US coverage, she paid out of pocket.

Professional sports is another matter. Doctors often pay for the distinction of being the official team physician, in the hope that the publicity will enhance their practice. Orthopedic surgery and other practices reportedly pay professional teams as much as $1.5 million annually to be listed as team physicians.[8]

Pros: Working at special events or screenings takes up just a few days of a physician's time.

Cons: Don't count on many of these opportunities.

12. Earn Your Stay on a Cruise Ship

For many years, Charles Pexa, MD, a Minneapolis-area emergency physician, has been taking free cruises. In return, he puts in a few hours each day as the ship's doctor and gets paid for it. "It's an adventure," Dr. Pexa says. "I can travel really inexpensively, and it's usually pleasant work. People on cruises are very easygoing." He serves as a cruise physician several times a year.

The cruise physician works with nurses in a sick bay that is fitted out with state-of the-art equipment, such as radiography equipment, an ECG, and laboratory testing devices. In addition to running 1-hour clinics in the morning and afternoon, the cruise physician is usually on call the rest of the time. Most times that the ship is in port, Dr. Pexa says he has to stay on board.

"This is not a money-making proposition," Dr. Pexa cautions. The pay is about $150 a day, but he and his wife cruise for free. The cruise lasts anywhere from a few days to a month.

"Most of the patients just have aches and pains, but you have to be available in case someone gets really sick," Dr. Pexa says. A medical emergency can be a big problem on the high seas. Once, when a passenger had sepsis, the captain had to turn the ship around and go back to port, Dr. Pexa recalls. Every so often, a cruise ship reports an outbreak of bacteria or a virus, but he has not had to deal with that.

Dr. Pexa has found work on many different cruise lines, but he concedes that finding a job might be more challenging for a doctor with no experience and in another specialty. Cruise lines favor emergency physicians for this work, but they also hire family physicians and internists who have had experience dealing with serious medical emergencies, Dr. Pexa says.

To find out more about becoming a cruise physician, contact the major cruise companies. The Carnival Corporation, the largest cruise line, owns Carnival Cruise Lines, Princess Cruises, Holland America, and Cunard Line. Royal Caribbean International owns Royal Caribbean, Celebrity Cruises, and Azamara Cruises. Another option is Norwegian Cruise Line.

Pros: In addition to a modest payment, you and your guest get a free cruise. Patients are friendly and relaxed, and you have a lot of free time.

Cons: You can't make much money from this work, and openings are limited. You have to stay on the ship when it is in port.

Taking the Next Step

Once you know what kind of job you want, you'll need to check out offerings and begin applying.

Dr. McLaughlin says this step does not come easy for a lot of doctors. "Physicians don't like asking for help," he says. He suggests asking friends and acquaintances for contacts and getting onto social networking sites, such as LinkedIn. Also check out Freelance MD, the blog on freelance work for physicians, and DocCafe, a physician hiring service that lists job opportunities.

If the part-time job you choose turns out to be very fulfilling, you may decide to expand the work or even make it a full-time career. "Part-time work can blossom into something more permanent and change your whole life," Dr. McLaughlin says.


Comments on Medscape are moderated and should be professional in tone and on topic. You must declare any conflicts of interest related to your comments and responses. Please see our Commenting Guide for further information. We reserve the right to remove posts at our sole discretion.
Post as: