For those outside the medical field, it might be easy to assume physicians and advanced practice providers are left-brained thinkers.
The nature of working in health care is scientific. It requires taking a decisive and analytical approach that leaves less room for creativity compared to other professions. But that doesn’t mean physicians and APPs can’t have a creative side or don’t possess a range of talents that serve more purposes than delivering medical care.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to be one or the other. That hobby you’ve been developing or side hustle you’ve been contemplating can act as a much-needed contrast or even complement your full-time job as a provider.
If elevating your personal passions alongside your professional career interests you, here’s what to consider before getting started:
What does pursuing part-time passions look like?
You might have become a physician because you’re passionate about caring for others. But you’re probably passionate about other things, too. What you do with those passions, though, and whether they remain personal or evolve into profitable pursuits is up to you.
The benefit of nurturing a hobby or passion project in tandem with your career is that it lends itself to a greater sense of balance between who you are as a physician and who you are as a person. For some, the hobby itself can even become a nonmedical side hustle.
Take Dr. Candace Bellamy for example. She does her rounds, provides care to patients and advances her career as a family medicine physician by day. By night, she takes the stage as a jazz and soul.
“Growing up, I was told I should sing, but I wanted to be a doctor,” Dr. Bellamy remarks. “Once I got out of medical residency and started practicing, I decided I needed a hobby. Someone was offering voice lessons, so I thought I’d give it a try.”
What started “just for fun” became a promising part-time gig as she began collaborating with brilliant songwriters and musicians like Ruth Carter, composer for Stevie Ray Vaugh, and bass player Jimi Calhoun, who performed alongside Jimi Hendrix, John Lennon and other reputable names.
All this to say that being a full-time physician doesn’t disqualify you from pursuing a part-time passion. For Dr. Bellamy, the reality of her job rekindled interest in what she’d put on pause to become a provider in the first place: her lifelong love for singing.
The work-life balance benefit
Having the opportunity to explore your potential in other areas doesn’t just make you a more well-rounded person, but it also makes you a more well-rounded and balanced health care professional.
Dr. Bellamy’s love for connecting with others was what initially drove her to become a physician. But singing part-time now offers something her full-time job doesn’t: the opportunity to connect with others through music.
In getting back to one of her oldest passions, she was able to create two satisfying careers and connect with more people, in more versatile ways.
Similarly, as a successful physician and artist with works on display at The Monarch in Ogden, Utah, Emily Cook, D.O. doubles down on the benefit of wearing two hats. She finds that being an artist offers the release and variety she needs to offset the daily demand of being a provider:
“If you know you are going to be taking on a patient’s problems,” Cook says, “which you cannot help but do, you know you have an outlet that is not medicine.”
Making time for more
Work-life balance might be all the reason you need, but making time for another endeavor – especially as a physician – can be easier said than done.
That’s why Dr. Cook encourages others to “Make your hobby, whatever it is, part of your life, part of your routine so that it happens. People always say they don’t have time,” she adds, “but we insert other things into our hobby’s place.”
Dr. Cook follows her own advice and keeps her outlet accessible so she can dive in anytime there’s an opportunity. “I bring watercolors with me everywhere I go and a sketchbook,” admits Dr. Cook. “I can take 10 minutes and draw something, look outside, take a breath and put color on paper.”
Being intentional about making time is the only way it will happen. But even if you think you don’t have any to spare, keeping your outlet within reach will give you the freedom in the moment to explore what you love apart from your career and find harmony between those interests.
Answering two calls
Making time and putting opportunities in place to be both a successful physician and an artist isn’t the only challenge for individuals like Dr. Cook though.
It’s wanting to be fully invested in both pursuits.
“I’m definitely pulled between being an artist and a physician,” she shares. “At the Monarch Art Studio, I have a fellow artist. That is that person’s primary job. It’s always like the imposter syndrome of being in two worlds … I spent hours mastering both.”
If you’re one who takes an all-or-nothing approach – which may not be unusual for health care professionals – it might feel like you would never be fully satisfied with your work in either area if it’s not receiving 100% of your focus.
The trick is to supplement your medical career with a hobby or side hustle, not overshadow it or make your professional and personal interests compete. Ideally, the fulfillment your hobby offers outside of work will add to your fulfillment at work, and taking part in that hobby will be even more rewarding when it’s time to immerse yourself in it.
Leveraging your professional expertise
You might be thinking Well, I’m not a singer, an artist, or even that creative. This doesn’t apply to me.
But maybe it can.
The knowledge you have as a physician or APP isn’t single-purpose, and it can have more value than providing medical care alone. For instance, Dr. Robert Scanlon knew from day one that he wasn’t going to fit into just one box:
“I have both a creative and scientific side to me,” he reflects, “I’ve always wanted to contribute to the creative process using what I know.”
And that’s exactly what Dr. Scanlon did when he combined his knowledge as a health care provider and his interest in film and TV to start Medical Media Consulting.
If you’ve watched shows like House or Grey’s Anatomy, you’ve probably picked up on some medical inaccuracies from time to time. These instances are what Dr. Scanlon works to prevent by providing services like preproduction writing and editing and helping actors acclimate to medical settings.
“I’m not sure how much the producers and writers recognize the audience’s hunger for technical information,” Dr. Scanlon points out, “They can immediately see the flaws just from their limited experience.”
Observing this knowledge gap in another industry is what inspired him to utilize his expertise in more creative ways. Ultimately, he used his professional expertise to his personal advantage and that’s what made it a success.
Defining your intentions
Adding a side hustle or developing a side hobby alongside work is doable, but your intentions need to be clear. There’s a difference between spending some of your free time painting or performing compared to dedicating yourself fully to it outside of work and aspiring to be showcased.
It’s also important to note not every secondary pursuit is going to offer the same kind of flexibility.
For instance, physician singer Candace Bellamy might have prescheduled shows or booked venues that make keeping organized crucial for balancing her time. Alternatively, physician artist Emily Cook might have more freedom to shape her off-the-clock agenda and delve into creative processes at her own pace. And because physician Robert Scanlon began his own consulting company, a more structured and involved schedule to support his business is likely.
Your approach will impact whether you’re enhancing your work-life balance or spreading yourself too thin. That’s why you need to consider what your involvement with that hobby or side hustle will look like before you embrace it as a part-time mission.
Questions to ask yourself:
- Is my end goal to find pleasure partaking in a hobby or project or to eventually turn a profit?
- Am I motivated by my personal fulfillment or by sharing my hobby, talent or passion with others?
- Could this hobby be a side hustle? Will it be more enjoyable than stressful to maintain?
- How do I want my work and satisfaction as a physician to benefit, and what’s my plan to avoid creating friction?
If you feel the call, start creating a game plan for how you’ll structure your time and bring your interests to life alongside your full-time job. If you’d rather personal talents or interests remain a private outlet, that’s perfectly fine, but be sure to continue tending to that side of yourself, too.
Remember, your identity isn’t limited to your title or the combination of letters after your name, and making the most of your medical mind doesn’t mean you have to drop your other talents and interests. If anything, it’s more reason to take advantage of your freedom to be “A physician and…” anything you want.