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ONLINE EXCLUSIVE: Should HM groups protect themselves against extreme moonlighters?


 

Whether one prefers the seven-on/seven-off scheduling model or not, it’s universally agreed that a full seven days off in a row is one of the schedule’s big selling points. But what about hospitalists who choose to work on their weeks off?

“That’s a definite concern, too,” says Gregory Martinek, DO, FHM, medical director of Lexington Hospitalists for the Altoona Regional Health System in Altoona, Pa.

In rural areas, such as Dr. Martinek’s workplace in central Pennsylvania, hospitalists often have a chance to pick up additional shifts—some even have two full-time gigs. That work, known as moonlighting, can be at their home institutions or at other hospitals in the region. But the practice raises questions about how well-rested physicians can be if they are working nearly every day.

“If a group of administrators get together and say, ‘Well, my hospitalists are working at your facility and vice versa, it’s like I’m paying them a full-time equivalent … but then on their off-week, when they’re supposed to be off for their quality of life and balance, and they’re off working somewhere,’ that’s a concern,” Dr. Martinek says.

To control the practice, Dr. Martinek has put rules in place to guide hospitalists who are eager to work additional shifts either via moonlighting or locum tenens. His group stipulates that hospitalists designated as the backup person for the week cannot accept additional shifts elsewhere. Additionally, if there are open shifts at Altoona Regiona Health System, hospitalists are encouraged to accept these shifts before accepting shifts outside the health system.

Dr. Martinek says he understands physicians’ desire to take additional shifts for financial benefit, but he urges them to take the long view of their careers before burning themselves out.

“This is a marathon, not a sprint, and they need to pace themselves,” he adds. “It’s OK to want to earn some extra money while it’s there, but you’ve got to think about the longevity of your career and really take your time off.” TH

Richard Quinn is a freelance writer in New Jersey.

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