It’s July and a whole new crop of recent residency graduates can now moonlight for the first time in their Naval careers, so here is a video podcast and blog post that discusses some of the basics of moonlighting.
Should You Moonlight?
I think the answer to this question depends on a lot of things. First, do you envision yourself working clinically when you leave the Navy? For most physicians, the answer to this question is yes, and depending on your specialty you may need to moonlight to maintain your clinical skills. We don’t always get exposed to the full scope of our specialty in the Navy. My wife is a pediatrician, and when she was on active duty I thought she had a full scope pediatric practice and did not need to moonlight to maintain her skills. As an emergency physician, though, it is rare to get exposed to the full breadth of emergency medicine in a Navy emergency department. You have to make an honest assessment of your specialty, the breadth of your Naval practice, and whether you need to moonlight to maintain your skills.
In addition, you need to figure out your motivation for moonlighting. A common motivation is to earn extra money, and that is a fine motivation, but you never want to make decisions that make you dependent on the money. You may deploy, your CO could take away your moonlighting privileges, or you could PCS somewhere where you can’t moonlight. You don’t want to be the bankrupt doctor because you bought a house you can’t afford without moonlighting.
The Navy’s Moonlighting Rules
In order to moonlight you have to get permission from your command. It is a privilege, not a right, and you can lose this privilege if you fail a PFA, don’t stay up-to-date on your training/readiness requirements, or don’t produce academically when required.
If you are going to moonlight somewhere outside of a 2 hour drive, you need to take leave. If you are flying anywhere, no matter the distance, you need to take leave. You can’t moonlight more than 16 hours/week and you need to have 6 hours of time off between clinical periods for your moonlighting job and your Naval duties. You’ll need to complete an annual attestation that says you are aware of these policies and compliant with them.
Where Should You Moonlight?
If you moonlight locally you don’t need to take leave. If you can find a clinical setting you think you’d like after your time in the Navy is complete, you can even start working toward partnership.
If you work locum tenens, you can travel and sometimes chase “the big money.” If you work enough, the locum companies will cover all of your expenses, DEA, state licenses, travel, hotel, expenses, and malpractice insurance. Because you are likely traveling to a location more than a 2 hour drive away, you’ll need to take leave.
Basic Financial Planning for Moonlighters
Moonlighting allows you to put more money in tax advantaged retirement accounts. If you’re a non-moonlighter, you’d be limited to putting $18,000/year in the TSP and $5,500/year in your IRA (based on 2015 limits). If you moonlight and get paid on a 1099 as an independent contractor, you can fund a SEP IRA or solo 401k up to $53,000/year. It is rare that you’ll hit this maximum because you can’t moonlight enough to earn the amount required to do it, but you will be able to put more away than a non-moonlighter. A SEP IRA is easier to set up than a solo 401k, but a Solo 401k allows more money to be contributed at an equivalent salary. For a great discussion on these two options, go to:
Finally, moonlighters often want to incorporate because they think it provides malpractice protection, but that is a myth. Although there may be some tax advantages to incorporating, it doesn’t protect you from professional liability or malpractice.
If you are going to sign a contract, you are going to need to get some professional help. You should hire a healthcare or contract attorney to review any contract you are considering. There are many issues you need to understand, including:
- Due process or termination clauses – For what reasons can they terminate you? Are you entitled to a hearing with the medical staff before your privileges are removed or restricted?
- Tail coverage – Does your malpractice insurance require tail coverage? If so, who is paying for it? Tail coverage is malpractice insurance that covers you after you stop working for that employer, and it can be VERY EXPENSIVE so you will want to know who is paying for it.
- TRICARE or VA eligible patients – You can’t bill these patients as they are already entitled to your services. This is spelled out very well in the moonlighting paperwork you will file with your command, but make sure your employer understands this.
Here are the Powerpoint slides for the video podcast below:
There is a HUGE knowledge deficit in the Medical Corps about FITREPs, which is sad when you consider that they are probably the most important document in our Naval careers. To address this deficit I created this video podcast. In 43 minutes you’ll know just about everything that you need to know about FITREPs. This material is based on about 10 lectures I collected over the years and is consistent with the 2015 update of the FITREP instruction that was just released a few months ago.
Grab a FITREP to look at or start up NAVFIT98a and write your FITREP as you watch the video because it will be much easier to follow along this way. In addition, here are the slides to download and view and the FITREP instruction:
Here are two opportunities for senior physicians. If you are interested in one, contact your Detailer:
O6 Only – Brigade Commander Position at USUHS
O5/O6 – SECDEF Corporate Fellowship NAVADMIN*
*NOTE: The first two programs mentioned in this NAVADMIN are for line officers and physicians are not eligible. The last program, the SECDEF Corporate Fellowship, is the one physicians are eligible for.
People really enjoyed seeing the FY16 CDR promotion stats and I got requests for the same stats for the CAPT promotion board. Here they are:
|# OF PEOPLE||# SELECTED||% SELECTED|
|# IZ||#SEL IZ||% SELECT IZ||# AZ||#SEL AZ||% SELECT AZ||# BZ||#SEL BZ||% SEL BZ|
Here are the FY16 CDR promotion board statistics. After a few more weeks of reviewing records of those who failed to select, I’ll have some specific promotion board takeaways.
|# OF PEOPLE||# SELECTED||% SELECTED|
|1Z FAILED TO SELECT||IZ SELECTS||AZ SELECTS||IN ZONE||% SELECTED IN ZONE||TOTAL IZ & AZ||SELECTS IZ & AZ||PERCENT SELECTED IZ & AZ|
Click on this to make it larger, if needed:
Here is the 2015 Graduate Medical Education BUMED Note:
Below this message is the O5 promotion list. For those that were selected, congratulations. Now that you are a CDR(s), you should strongly consider mixing your career up a little. No matter what you do for the next few years as a junior CDR, you’re likely to get a promotable (P) on your fitreps if you are in a competitive group. This fact makes it a great time to PCS, moving overseas or to a senior operational role if you haven’t done those tours yet. It also makes it a great time to apply for a fellowship, go to a War College, take on a job that you will enjoy but will get you 1/1 fitreps that could hurt you later in your career, or pursue anything else you can think of that is rank appropriate. Then after you spend a few years doing this, you can return to a command, try to get a senior leadership role and competitive fitreps, and give it your best shot to promote to O6.
If you did not promote, it is time to regroup. See my June 21st post entitled “You Failed to Promote…Now What?” Keep in mind, that most physicians are offered continuation until year 20 as a LCDR, so you likely have a few more chances to promote.
Once I have some time to analyze the O5 board results and get some statistics, I’ll do a more detailed post with O5 promotion board takeaways.