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The pandemic has left an indelible mark on nearly every industry. The health care industry has likely undergone the most significant shift. The past 2 years have placed an immense strain on health care workers. That pressure, coupled with the movement of workers in the midst of the Great Resignation, has led to health care workers leaving the industry and seeking new opportunities.

There is a growing trend of dissatisfied health care workers leaving corporate health care positions to start their own medical-orientated businesses.

Why They Leave

Working in health care can be difficult, with long hours, working around constant illness and often death, and physical challenges that can present themselves after many years on the job and leave lasting effects. An article in The Atlantic stated that between February 2020 and November 2021, half a million health care workers left the industry or were laid off. A Morning Consult survey found that 31% of remaining health care workers have considered leaving their positions.

It is no secret that the health care industry is a high-stress environment, even in the best of times. The past few years have created a financial, personal, and professional firestorm for many that have contributed significantly to people choosing to abandon their positions. The pandemic also created an environment where people sought more flexibility in their workday. Many health care workers have on-call positions or are even mandated to stay and work overtime if there are staffing shortages. Those mandated shifts and call-ins increased exponentially among pandemic staffing issues, creating a cycle of burnout and eventual resignation of millions of health care workers.

Some health care workers were also seeking advancement and higher pay. Their only solution often was to venture out and create their own careers outside of corporate health care pay structures and the lack of advancement opportunities. Many health care workers carry thousands in school debt as an albatross around their necks. Many leave the confines of their corporate health care environments hoping to make more money as entrepreneurs.

The stresses of the pandemic also added an extra level of turmoil for health care workers. Protective equipment shortages, the stark realities of the health care system, and upheaval between caregivers and patients have all contributed to worker dissatisfaction in their own way.

Many workers were pushed past their limits. Health care worker post-traumatic stress is a real issue and saw a surge amid the added stress of the pandemic working conditions.

The Great Resignation Impact

The Great Resignation has been a well-documented phenomenon. In March 2022 alone, a record 4.5 million people left their jobs. Some moved on to other positions, some took time to stay home and figure out their next moves, and others decided to start their own businesses.

Many business owners have fought back against the rising amount of resignations, claiming people simply “don’t want to work anymore.” However, statistics show that this is not the case. On the contrary, unemployment is at the pre-pandemic level, and people are venturing out to find jobs that offer more personal satisfaction, money, or flexibility.

It is the people in the health care industry who have decided to strike out on their own who are perhaps making the biggest pivot. The health care industry is typically very micromanaged, with a set hierarchy. Working conditions can be easily influenced by boards, insurance companies, and the law. Corporate health care systems can lead to burnout just as quickly as long hours and high-stakes working conditions. Striking out on one’s own but staying within the health care industry that one knows can open doors of opportunity, creativity, and innovation.

Despite its challenges, the health care industry continues to boom. Americans spend more on their health care than most of their industrialized counterparts. The health care economy as it is leaves a lot of room for people to bring new services and products to the table.

The Side Gig Economy

Many have already heard about the rise of the gig economy. Rising costs and stagnant wages have led many to seek side work outside of their main career positions, even before the Great Resignation took hold. Health care workers have carved out side hustles while staying within the health industry. Often, entrepreneurs begin their paths to self-employment with a side hustle bolstered by their full-time income.

Medical moonlighting has always been an option for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals looking to make extra money. Now, those medical professionals are parlaying their moonlight gigs into entrepreneurial ventures.

When considering what to pursue as a side gig, medical professionals should consider their skills as they relate to health care and outside the industry.

The Options and Opportunities

There are many options and opportunities for health care professionals who want to go out on their own. With each health care innovation that hits the market, opportunities expand.

Telehealth. Telehealth met the moment within the 2020 shutdown. Many doctors and health care providers were able to continue making a living caring for patients via telehealth. Telehealth innovations have continued to hit the market, even through the pandemic. Moves into virtual reality and the metaverse have allowed health care professionals to begin cutting-edge businesses to serve more people.

Novel Health Care Innovations. Health care is typically one of the first stops for novel ideas when it comes to cutting-edge technologies and ideas. Whether it’s introducing ketamine therapy in psychiatry or integrating the blockchain into health care, entrepreneurs are jumping into the deep end and creating careers with new ideas.

Social Media Self-Employment. With the rise of social media as a respected medium, many health care professionals have taken to the internet and built empires as medical influencers, content creators, health coaches, or selling their own products.

Consulting. The more niche a person’s area of expertise, the more in-demand their consulting services may be.

Private Practice and Home Caregiver Work. There are many options for people with a license to practice to go into business for themselves with private practice offices or offering at-home health care. Health care professionals who often feel burnt out or disillusioned with the corporate health care industry can find freedom in their own businesses while still making a difference for patients with their skills.

Professionals looking to move into self-employment will want to consider the financial implications and business-related considerations of entrepreneurship. A solid business plan and robust financial footing are critical to starting a lasting business.

The New Frontier

The health care industry and the business world are rapidly changing. Medical professionals are finding opportunities that they may not have had in the past.

Burned-out and dissatisfied health care workers could be considered a real dilemma for the health care industry. As a new generation of health care professionals prepare to enter the field, many more are taking new ideas and technologies down the path of self-employment.

Venturing out on one’s own can offer flexibility, autonomy, unlimited income potential, and a break from the high rate of burnout. As of February 2022, about 10 million Americans identified as self-employed. Numbers continue to rise as the Great Resignation persists. Although the self-employed people were very likely to have lost work during the worst of the pandemic, their comeback has been formidable.

Many health care institutions are realizing, perhaps too late, that burnout and job dissatisfaction are having a monumental impact on their ability to serve patients and keep staffing levels steady. Even though the industry has recognized the need to make changes and adjust the industry for the betterment of employees, that has not slowed the deluge of health care experts entering the entrepreneurial space. As the industry continues to ride with the changes the pandemic wrought, the nation and the world should be prepared to see a steady influx of revolutionary ideas and innovative business ideas from the health care community.

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