Being a healthcare provider is a full-time job. It starts in PA school when you are not “suppose” to work while in the program. Why? Because it is intense like drinking from a fire hose! Long hours in the classroom, endless studying and all those extra hours during clinical rotations. Nearing graduation, you have to find time to apply for jobs, interview, freshen up your CV and LinkedIn profile. Don’t forget about studying for the PANCE!
Then, you start your first job. Talk about being green! Generally speaking, PA school does a great job preparing their students for the real world. But it turns out the real world is a convoluted mess! There are rarely textbook patient presentations and finding your spot in the ever-changing hierarchy of healthcare can be quite the challenge. It takes several years to begin to feel comfortable and become a proficient PA. After that, you made it! You have achieved your goal of becoming a PA-C and are making a difference in your patients’ lives! What else could you possible need in your career?
The Massive Raise
The raise you received after PA school, anywhere between $75,000 - $100,000, suddenly isn’t enough! It begins with staying late for a little overtime. Then you begin picking up weekend shifts once or twice per month. Before you realize there is a problem, your perfect 40/week job turned into 60 hour/week with evenings, weekends, on-call, holidays AND YOU ARE STRESSED! We told ourselves a 40 hour/week job making $130,000 per year would be all that we ever needed! Remember saying that to yourself? Why are we always looking for more?
PAs constantly strive to achieve the ideal work/life balance. Working hard, taking good care of patients and standing out among your peers is the goal. An hourly rate of $62.50 sounds pretty good. $62.50/hr x 40 hours/week x 52 weeks = $130,000 per year. Why would you need to work evenings, weekends, holidays or be on-call when the average PA salary is about $115,000? Of that’s right…STUDENT LOANS! And, what about the $45,000 Jeep Wrangler you bought six months after graduation? Oh, and what about your condo payment of $2,000/month? Don’t forget about all the vacations put on your credit card(s). Realistically, your income pays for your basics and loans, but NOT your lifestyle or savings!
Burnout begins to set in. Your life is now consumed by work. Patients have become annoying. Your boss now expects you to work harder and longer than your peers. The need to “get away” or make a big purchase because you “work too hard” and you “deserve it” becomes real. The cycle continues and you begin searching for non-clinical ways to make more money. Suddenly, your passion for healthcare dwindles and you question whether or not you made the right career choice. Many of your PA friends are considering a doctorate or already have one. You find those rapidly advancing in their health system have other advanced degrees (i.e., MBA, MHA, MPH), all of which require more money, and ultimately more STUDENT LOANS! The PA title change somehow makes you question your career even more. What about the Instagram influencers touting their ability to make smart financial choices? How much about any of these people do you really know?
The Non-Clinical Search
You begin searching for ways to make more money without being stuck seeing patients any more than you have too. Social media platforms are telling you about the wonderful lifestyle you can achieve by starting a side gig/hustle. Here are some side gigs commonly discussed:
· Freelance writing
· Health coach
· Real estate investing
· YouTube channel
· Stock day trading
· Selling baked goods
· Drive for Uber/Lyft
The list goes on. A side gig should be more of a hobby that you enjoy. It should not feel like work. Use your time to do what you love. Ideally, it turns into enough income to decrease the burden to constantly work to pay your debt payments. When it truly come to making money, referencing the list above, 95% of the side gigs result in less than the hourly rate of your PA jobs. But that’s ok! Living life to the fullest does not mean spending every waking hour on the clock.
Going from being a PA 60 hours/week to 30 hours/week and doing something you enjoy 10 hours per week sounds great! No one ever said seeing patients wasn’t enjoyable. Rather, diversifying your time and income sounds more attractive. Imagine seeing patients 3 days per week and doing something you love 2 days per week and still making the same amount of money. What about making even more money? That’s the goal, whether we want to admit it or not. Finding ways to make more money that does not equate to working as a clinical PA-C 50-60 hours per week, evenings, holidays or weekends.
Making the switch isn’t easy for most. Your friends, family and colleagues question why you are stepping away from medicine. This can be hard to answer in the face of uncertainty and just needing to back down from your current work load...
What Is Your Why
Before any major changes occur in your life, ask yourself this question, “Why am I doing this”? It sounds so simple. It is extremely easy to come up with reasons for your decision making. But, be honest with yourself. Why do you want change?
· Are truly burned out?
· Do you work too much?
· Do you just need a new job?
· Did you actually choose the wrong career?
· Can we blame COVID?
· Do you need more career satisfaction?
· Did you get yourself into too much debt?
To become an experienced practicing PA, you have dedicated many years of your life. Don’t let burnout, COVID or debt take you away from your passion. Natural career progression changes our views on what is most important to us and how we want to spend our time. Do what makes you happy. Find ways to spend your time that is not dreadful or stressful. At the end of the day, a job is a job. People often say, “Love your job and you will never have to work a day in your life”. While this has some truth, time away from you home and family is work. Your work can be enjoyable (most of the time) but still takes away from your personal time.
What Should You Do
Take some time to find out a little more about YOU. Does work make you stressed? Do you have a problem with spending? Are you able to make all your debt payments on time? What is most important to you?
Make a list of short-term, intermediate-term and long-term goals. Don’t jump ship on a whim when things are tough. It has definitely been a rough last 18 months, but take the time to lay things out and plan (for once). Do you plan to transition out of being a full-time clinician or just decrease the amount of hours worked per week?
Does your lifestyle personal/family plans match up with your transition? With a major life event in the near future (i.e., birth of child, marriage, moving, ect.), consider holding off on any major career changes. The last thing you want to happen is to regret the change before you have a chance to enjoy it.
Lastly, and arguable most importantly, are you in a financial place to make the transition? Secure, steady income can be hard to replace. Particularly when it comes at an hourly rate of $60-$80. You may have already found this out but good luck finding a “hobby” that pays the same as your PA job. It is not impossible, just rare. Many professionals believe in the 10,000 rule. This means you have to work at something for 10,000 hours (40 hrs/week x 52 weeks x 5 years) until you can be viewed as an expert or merely be a proficient clinician. Think about that for a minute. How many years have you been in practice? How many hours per week have you done your hobby or side gig?
The unique personalities and professional abilities of PAs combine to create tremendous financial opportunities! Understand yourself first and take the time to create a plan. Continue your journey by becoming the best version of yourself and establish a basis of financial education. After all, the reason you are considering a side hustle is because of money…
Financial literacy is the ability to make smart financial decisions to achieve the life you want. Colleagues, social media, friends and family have a way of influencing our decision in life. But, they don’t know everything about us or the details of our personal financial situation. Before you make a transition that could either be the best or worst decision of your career, look deep at the personal, professional and financial aspects of your life. Only you can decide what is best!
Check out my profile and ready how my journey has been ever changing. I gave up trying to predict my career because I have yet to be right!
PA 4 Finance offers free resources to PAs:
· Free Financial Starter Kit
· Free Tax Checklist
We offer 1:1 sessions for PAs in any career phase. Also, check out The PAs Guide to Financial Planning to use as a financial blueprint as you navigate through your career!