Retirement is a tough choice for everyone. For most jobs it’s not a choice a person has to make because retirement is at about the age of 66. There are ways people can continue working after years of dedication, but most just accept that it’s time to hang up their coat. The situation is different for doctors though because unless they’re in an administrative position you can’t get them to leave their post.
If you’re working in a private practice then this is even truer. You are the master of your time. You decide your work hours and definitely when to retire. It can be hard to choose to hang up your lab coat. You’ve spent over 20 years working and helping lives. What do you do afterwards? Your patients will have to be transferred to other doctors and you won’t be hearing about how they’re doing anymore.
No more convincing a patient how important it is to make sure his diabetes is under control or convincing another to quit smoking. No more surgeries if you’re a surgeon. A doctor’s life is fairly busy and the work almost never stops. The fact of retirement can be very scary. The boredom might drive any active person insane let alone someone who’s used to alleviating pain and saving lives on a daily basis.
So how exactly does someone know they’re ready for retirement? For doctors it could be several things. For starters it could be burnout. Burnout is when the job isn’t satisfying anymore and I believe we’ve all been through this regardless of what we do for a living or what we study. You just feel like you want to quit and take a very long break. You might not even want to return to what it is you were doing ever again.
Doctors are very susceptible to burnout because being a physician is one of the most stressful jobs in the world. A doctor may suffer from burnout several times throughout his or her career while recovering over and over again. At the age of 60 and after over 30 years of being a doctor it could be difficult to recover. One can simply say “this is it” and leave once and for all. The job takes its toll mentally, physically, and emotionally so after working for so long it’s understandable that one might not see a way back and start thinking that that’s it, it’s time for me to go.
Medicine leaves little time for anything else. Plans might hasten a doctor retiring. For instance if you agree on a business idea with friends or others you might decide to dedicate all your time to it and leave medicine. It’s also possible that the new business will take up little time giving you the opportunity to focus on relaxing and enjoying your retirement while allowing you another source of income.
Money is one of the crucial factors as well. It’s something that everyone thinks about not just doctors. You don’t want to retire only to realize you’ll run out of money in a couple of years. Doctors make good money and it can be difficult to cope without a reliable source of income in retirement. You take into consideration if you’ve paid the mortgage of your house, you need a new car, and if you saved enough for the future of your children if they’re not independent yet.
Doctors also have lots of loans so it takes a few years for them to pay them before they can fully focus on saving money for the future and buying things like a house. So finding another source of income could speed up the decision to retire and make it a lot easier and less of a risk.
Family should also be taken into consideration. In fact not spending time enough with their family is one of the things doctors regret the most. The work hours are long and you might be called in late into the night not even giving you time to sleep at home hugging your spouse and children. A doctor might miss his or her kid’s first word or the moment they first got up and started walking. They might want to make up for that time by retiring and dedicating the rest of their life to their loved ones.
Your kids will have probably grown up but you can enjoy the presence and company of your grandchildren. You could get a dog. A trip around the world with your spouse would also be a wonderful idea. Family is probably the most important thing in the world and no matter how much a person loves medicine and being a doctor they’ll still miss their family and the comfort of their home. In fact the lack of family time could hasten a doctor suffering from burnout. I believe having time to spend with family is one of the few great things about retirement.
It’s also important to consider the legacy you’re living behind. Did you leave your mark on the world of medicine? When we’re medical students we’re always thinking about curing cancer and winning that Nobel Prize in medicine. Well so far cancer hasn’t been cured and there’s only one Nobel Prize winner per year. It’s important to consider the kind of impact you had. Did you publish all those papers you wanted to publish about a certain disease?
A person’s legacy isn’t just reliant on glory and accolades. Your legacy could be a brilliant doctor who, you trained and helped become the doctor he or she is today. Knowing that there’s a great doctor out there because of you could be satisfying enough. If you have a private practice you could rest assured and retire happily knowing that your star student will take care of them and that they’re in good hands.
You could also realize that there’s so much more for you to do in the world of medicine. Perhaps you want to see out the result of some research you’re doing or that you just thought of a new surgical technique you’d like to put to the test. If you’re not satisfied with what you’ve done so far and you’re still hungry for more then it may not be the time for you to leave.
There are also ways to stay in touch with medicine if you’re too passionate to retire completely but too tired to work the long hours. Telemedicine is an alternative where you can assist patients online and answer consultations from other doctors. You could also answer questions in the new section on FindaTopDoc where patients ask medical questions and doctors answer them free of charge. You could tell someone if they need to visit a doctor or hospital as soon as possible or if the condition is benign and will resolve on its own. You could also give lectures as a guest at medical schools or participate as a teacher in first aid courses and others.
Quitting medicine isn’t easy. Quitting anything isn’t easy as long as you’re passionate enough about it. You spend decades saving lives and bringing happiness and joy to people, you can’t expect retirement to be a piece of cake. Being a doctor is thrilling and there’s barely anything that can provide you with the same satisfaction. Like we said a number of factors could make the decision easier such as other plans, wanting to spend time with your family, or simply not being capable of doing it anymore because of any number of reasons.
The decision will be one of the most difficult you will face in your life. It can however be worth it if you have plans. You can start to enjoy other aspects of your life that you had long forgotten about. If you’re too passionate about medicine to let go completely there will also be ways for you to stay in touch with the medical world.