Objectives: To survey emergency medicine (EM) residents regarding moonlighting practices and perceptions for clarifying: 1) resident moonlighting remuneration; 2) any association of perceived educational debt with moonlighting income and hours; and 3) perceptions related to moonlighting (including motivations, impact on resident training, and potential medicolegal difficulties).
Methods: A confidential, voluntary survey was administered to all allopathic EM residents in the United States. This written survey was provided to residents at their in-service examinations. Completed forms were anonymously returned by residents or local administrative staff to a central site where all identifiers were removed prior to mailing en mass to the investigators. Comparisons between groups were made using chi-square tests and correlations were assessed using the Pearson correlation coefficient.
Results: Seventy-six percent (1,826/2,407) of the surveys were returned. There was a weak correlation (r = 0.11) between educational debt and moonlighting hours for residents in the second year and above, but no association of debt with moonlighting income. Most (88%) of the residents reported that their programs permitted moonlighting. Nearly half (49%) reported that they did moonlight in some way. Most (82%) thought moonlighting provided experience not available in the residency. Only 13 (2%) respondents stated they had been sued for malpractice while moonlighting. Most (66%) moonlighting respondents stated that they moonlighted for financial reasons, with educational debt the primary motivating factor. Of the moonlighting residents, 28% were unsure of their type of malpractice insurance coverage, and 9% had no coverage at all.
Conclusions: Education about EM practice matters including the risks of moonlighting should begin early in residency, because moonlighting is widespread. Residents are vulnerable to medicolegal action while moonlighting and have insufficient knowledge of their malpractice insurance coverage. Although educational debt is perceived as a strong motivating factor for moonlighting, there is only a weak relationship between educational debt and moonlighting hours.