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Looking at Retirement After a Career in Medicine


I can say I've had a rewarding 40-year career in medicine, in a number of roles. But I wonder how will I fill my time in retirement?

I have had a lot of time to think about retirement over the past year. A lot of things go through my mind, like, "Will I have enough money? Will I be able to stay busy enough? Do I have enough activities that I want to do to fill non-working time?"

For healthcare providers, making the transition away from full-time practice into partial practice or full-time retirement can bring additional opportunities.

I have served in the medical field for over 40 years. I get tremendous joy and satisfaction from daily caring for patients in our hospital-based plastic and reconstructive surgery practice. In my current position, I have been extremely fortunate to find myself in a position of flexibility at work, easing my eventual transition to retirement and allowing me to pursue my interests in service to the community. The feeling of freedom for me is indescribable.

Annually, my surgeon partner travels on medical missions to Central America. Something that I've always wanted to do, too, but because of the demands of the trauma side of our practice, one of us would remain at the hospital when the other was traveling.

Scaling back to part-time practice gives me the freedom to go with him and participate in this vital humanitarian effort, to travel to annually, assisting with the surgery as part of the medical mission team. I'm really looking forward to serving the international community to provide needed care and assistance, something that I had always dreamed of, but could not manage to do in earlier years.

In addition to serving abroad, I'm looking forward to pursuing areas of interest outside of medicine; finding that critical work-life balance that many healthcare providers often struggle with. My son and I have already shared more time together by exploring the trails and backcountry of our beautiful Sierra Nevada Mountains. Exploring the pristine wilderness and natural parks of our state can occupy the entire rest of my life. It is an endeavor well worth pursuing!

My spouse finds herself one year away from full retirement and we will suddenly have the time and resources to pursue our desire to travel the world more and to see new countries, cultures, and civilizations. Unlike myself, where I can practice part time as a PA, she frets about occupying her time, as her retirement is an all or nothing situation. She has plans to fill her time writing books about early childhood development and teaching developmentally disabled children, which she has been doing for 30 years.

One thing is for certain. We have to prepare for our relationship to change as we currently both work very hard and are not used to lighter schedules, or even scaling back to take a breather from our work. It will be interesting and rewarding to reestablish our relationship in an entirely new environment. I am really looking forward to the reward for hard work and a fulfilled life spent pursuing a passion for medicine and care delivery.

Practicing medicine as a PA has been a blessing to my life. It has given me the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of others, support my family, and to work alongside some of the best and brightest minds in medicine. Now is the time in my life for a small amount of personal pursuits, to make sure that I, just like providers wish for our patients, am well-rounded and healthy, both in body and mind.

There are many unique opportunities we can pursue outside of working hours, related or unrelated to medicine, but finding time can often be an issue. I am a little bit apprehensive, but ready to take on new challenges and pursue the new opportunities that my new-found "freedom" will allow me.

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