Physicians embrace gig work model to tackle burnout

Similar to what the nursing industry is seeing, a growing group of U.S. physicians are taking a gig approach to employment and ditching the traditional path of working for a health system or practice. 

In a June 6 report, The Wall Street Journal cited data from medical-staffing company CHG Healthcare that found about 7 percent of the nation's physician workforce, or 50,000, were practicing through temporary assignments. This represents a 90 percent increase since 2015, and has been largely driven by burnout. 

Physicians who have switched to gig work cited less pressure around productivity metrics and more flexibility as reasons for leaving the traditional path in interviews with the Journal. One temporary-assignment physician based in California said his month might entail a week at a hospital, five to eight days of telemedicine appointments from home and second stint at another community or academic hospital. 

Higher pay is another draw, with temporary gigs typically paying up to 50 percent more than what a full-time staff doctor would earn, though locum tenens physicians are on the hook for benefits and retirement financing. Primary care physicians and specialists such as cardiologists, pulmonologists, surgeons and oncologists are among those highest in demand, according to CHG Healthcare's data. 

Challenges that come with the temp-work approach for physicians include obtaining credentialing and licensing requirements for any new state or facility they work in, and acclimating quickly to new work environments. 

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