The economy is still uncertain, and physicians are not immune to these challenging times. You might be tempted to create your own stimulus package by moonlighting.
Moonlighting usually refers to a resident or fellow taking a second, part-time, clinical job. In most cases, the reason for taking the second job is solely economic: to earn more money to supplement your salary.
The moonlighting contract protects you and the party for
whom you are working.
Moonlighting is, however, no longer the exclusive domain of residents and fellows. In an era of decreasing reimbursements from third-party payers, physicians with varying years of professional experiences and specialties are attracted to the opportunity to earn extra dollars by engaging in extracurricular clinical engagements.
Whether you are a resident, fellow, junior attending or seasoned physician, there are important legal considerations you must address before executing a contract to be a moonlighter. And yes, you should execute a contract. Do not rely upon a handshake or an exchange of e-mails. The moonlighting contract protects you and the party for whom you are working. It also helps prevent amnesia when there is a disagreement or misunderstanding between you and your second employer regarding your respective rights and responsibilities.
Are you allowed to moonlight?
This is the threshold issue that must be addressed before you do any clinical (and, depending on your contract, non-clinical) activities for any other party besides your primary employer.
Imagine language in your contract with your primary employer that states: “During the term of physician’s relationship with employer, physician shall not engage in any activity that is competitive with employer unless physician receives the advance written permission of employer, and such approval may be revoked at any time.”
There are several questions that must be addressed:
- What is a “competitive” activity? Is it clinical? Is it nonclinical, such as being an expert witness or dealing with intellectual property?
- Is it tied to the radius of the contract’s restrictive covenant provision?
- Is it tied to the hospital(s) or other ambulatory facilities where your employer’s physicians have privileges?
- Is it limited to a particular specialty or a particular set of procedures, such as cosmetic, or cash pay versus third-party payer reimbursements?
Before you can safely take advantage of any moonlighting opportunity, you must get these issues addressed. To be sure you are not going to violate your primary employer’s contract, you should get these answers in writing, and have the same signed by you and your employer.
What is your limit?
There are some people, including physicians, who require very little sleep to function at an optimal level. However, your contract with your primary employer may not address your minimal sleep habits and needs and may simply state: “Physician shall devote his/her full time and attention to employer.”
What constitutes full time? Part of the answer may be dictated by your “normal” working hours. It may be unacceptable to work from 7 p.m. to midnight after working for your primary employer earlier in the day or having regular hours the following day. Is it OK to work a weekend shift for another employer when you have no regular office hours that day or on-call responsibilities?