The pandemic has left an indelible mark on nearly every industry. The healthcare industry has likely undergone the most significant shift. The past two years have placed an immense strain on healthcare workers. That pressure, coupled with the movement of workers amid The Great Resignation, has led to healthcare workers who are dissatisfied with their positions leaving the industry and seeking new opportunities.
Even though studies show as many as 1 in 5 healthcare workers have left their jobs, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they have abandoned healthcare. There is a growing trend of dissatisfied healthcare workers leaving corporate positions to start medical-orientated businesses.
Why They Leave
Every healthcare worker has likely had moments that made them stop and think about their career trajectory. Working in healthcare 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 healthcare workers either left the industry or were laid off. A Morning Consult survey found that 31% of remaining healthcare workers have considered leaving their positions. The healthcare industry is experiencing an exodus unlike any other.
It is no secret that the healthcare 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 healthcare 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 healthcare workers.
Some healthcare workers were also seeking advancement and higher pay. Their only solution often was to venture out and create their careers outside of corporate healthcare pay structures and the lack of advancement opportunities. Many healthcare workers carry thousands in school debt as an albatross. Many leave the confines of their corporate healthcare environments hoping to make more money as entrepreneurs, where the sky can be the limit with a good business idea.
In addition to the usual difficulties of the healthcare profession, the stresses of the pandemic added an extra level of turmoil for healthcare workers. Protective equipment shortages, the stark realities of the healthcare system, and upheaval between caregivers and patients have all contributed to worker dissatisfaction.
Many workers were pushed past their limits. Healthcare workers' post-traumatic stress is a real issue and saw a surge amid the added stress of the pandemic working conditions.
The Great Resignation and the Healthcare Industry
The Great Resignation has been a well-documented phenomenon. In March of 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 businesses.
Many business owners have fought 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 healthcare industry who have decided to strike out on their own that are perhaps making the biggest pivot. The healthcare industry is typically very micromanaged, with a set hierarchy. Board, insurance companies, and the law can easily influence working conditions. Corporate healthcare 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 healthcare industry that one knows can open doors of opportunity, creativity, and innovation.
Despite its challenges, the healthcare industry continues to boom. Americans spend more on their healthcare than most of their industrialized counterparts. The healthcare economy leaves a lot of room for people to bring new services and products to the table. There is a disruption in the healthcare industry coming from all sides, and many of those disruptors are people who have left conventional medical careers to bring something new to the industry.
The Side Gig Economy
Many have already heard about the rise of the gig economy. Rising costs and stagnant wages had led many to seek side work outside their main career positions, even before The Great Resignation took hold. Jobs with companies like DoorDash and Uber are well known, but healthcare workers have also carved outside hustles while staying within the health industry. Often, entrepreneurs begin their paths to self-employment with a side hustle initially 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 healthcare and outside the industry. People who are particularly artistic, technology-minded, or financially savvy should seek a side gig or entrepreneurial bent that aligns with those skills.
The Options and Opportunities
There are many options and opportunities for healthcare professionals who want to go out independently. With each healthcare innovation that hits the market, opportunities expand. Healthcare workers looking to leave the structure of corporate healthcare will find their talents welcomed in a whole host of health-related areas.
Telehealth met the moment within the 2020 shutdown. Many doctors and other healthcare providers were able to continue making a living caring for patients via telehealth. In addition, telehealth innovations have continued to hit the market despite the pandemic. Moves into virtual reality and the metaverse have allowed healthcare professionals to begin cutting-edge businesses to serve more people.
Novel Healthcare Innovations
Healthcare is typically one of the first stops for novel ideas regarding cutting-edge technologies and ideas. Whether introducing ketamine therapy in psychiatry or integrating the blockchain into healthcare, 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 healthcare professionals have taken to the internet and built empires as medical influencers, content creators, health coaches, or selling their products.
There is a lot of demand for healthcare experts in fields from athletics to corporate environments. 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 healthcare. Healthcare professionals who often feel burnt out or disillusioned with the corporate healthcare industry can find freedom in their businesses while making a difference for patients with their skills.
Professionals looking to move into self-employment will want to consider the financial and business-related considerations of entrepreneurship. A solid business plan and robust financial footing are critical to starting a lasting business. A rise in resignations from the healthcare sector doesn’t give everyone dissatisfied with their current position carte blanche to abandon their livelihood without pre-planning. Research your new venture, including what it will cost to start, how competing businesses may be faring, and if you can replace your current income.
The New Frontier
The healthcare industry and the business world are rapidly changing. Medical professionals are finding opportunities they may not have had in the past.
Burned-out and dissatisfied healthcare workers could be considered a real dilemma for the healthcare industry. As a new generation of healthcare professionals prepare to enter the field, many more are taking new ideas and technologies down the path of self-employment.
The benefits of self-employment are undeniable. Venturing out on one’s own can offer flexibility, autonomy, unlimited income potential, and a break from the high rate of burnout to be found in healthcare. As of February 2022, about 10 million Americans identified as self-employed. Numbers continue to rise as the Great Resignation persists. It’s a new frontier for American workers as people realize dreams, chase innovation, and leave toxic environments. Although the self-employed people were very likely to have lost work during the worst of the pandemic, their comeback in a post-pandemic working world has been formidable.
Many healthcare institutions realize, 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 healthcare 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 and innovative business ideas from the healthcare community.