A physician approaching those long-awaited golden years isn’t ready to disconnect from the medical profession. Our careers consultant offers options.
Q I am in my late 60s and planning to hang up my stethoscope in the next two years. As my retirement quickly approaches, I find myself increasingly anxious about the transition, particularly about remaining engaged in the medical community. The idea of golfing all day, every day, now seems less and less attractive to me. What career advice would you give someone in my situation?
A Many physicians romanticize about retirement, then find themselves bored and longing for mental stimulation and human interaction within months. Often, dreams of world travel and additional time with a spouse and family become altered by the reality of long and uncomfortable flights and family members who have little time to engage because of their own life demands. For the first few weeks, during the honeymoon stage, retirement seems great, but after the initial excitement of uncommitted days sets in, physicians often begin questioning their decision to retire.
I encourage physicians to move toward retirement gradually, to find the best balance between complete retirement and practicing medicine full-time.
One option is to look at your current role and identify responsibilities that can be delegated or shared with someone else, allowing you to slowly move into a part-time role. This will allow you to ease into retirement gradually and support your organization’s succession planning process. Should you decide to go this route, it will be important to have a clear exit strategy and timeline.
Another option is to consider transitioning your skills into volunteer work or working in a nonprofit environment with a cause that’s meaningful to you. This will provide the human interaction that’s often missing in retirement, along with letting you use your skills to advance an important cause.
Finally, consider mentoring a young physician. By using your experience and knowledge to guide and support a young physician, you continue contributing to medicine.
My only word of caution is to be as honest as possible with yourself, your organization and your team as you carefully contemplate your retirement. Mature physicians often miscalculate the challenges of attempting to come out of retirement. This issue is compounded by an organization’s need to find a suitable successor for a retiring physician. Once an organization begins investing time, money and resources in the search, it hesitates to walk away from its investment. I highly recommend conducting the necessary soul-searching and creating a solid exit strategy before announcing your retirement plans.