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What Does Retirement as a Physician Assistant Look Like?


I don't want to stop doing surgery until I'm physically unable to perform safely; however, there are a lot things that I want to do outside of medicine.

I made a major life change this summer when I semi-retired and had a moment to reflect on my career over the past four decades. What exactly does this mean? It means taking more advantage of the time I have to be inspired, while removing some things from my professional life to create more of a work-life balance.

My wife and I have made good decisions financially, and have saved in many areas for our family and our future to get to this position. Like many, I have worked hard to get my children through school, provide a good quality of life for my family, provide for my aging parents, and to ensure a good quality of life for my wife and I in our "golden years."

I've managed to become debt free in the past year, which had huge implications for needed family revenue in a very positive way. The freedom of paying off debt at a relatively young age has been very liberating. I didn't need the money anymore and could cut back on some work hours in my professional life.

There is so much uncertainty in the world right now. It behooves all healthcare providers to think about some potentially tough questions as we look toward our future and readiness for retirement transitions:

• The "million dollar question" is - how much money do I need to sustain a reasonable quality of life in retirement or semi-retirement?

• The second question is, "What do I see myself doing with my free time?"

Regarding number one, through paying attention to prudent practices recommended by financial planning experts and steadily paying off my debts, I have been able to institute an equally steady investment policy toward my retirement.

As to the second question, I don't want to stop doing surgery until I'm physically unable to perform safely, both in the operating room and in the clinic. I get great joy and satisfaction caring for the broad variety of patients that present to our practice. I can honestly say that I have never been happier professionally, and look forward to going to work each day.

However, there are a lot things that I want to do outside of medicine and surgery, not the least of which is travel - exploring different cultures around the world and exploring the beautiful Sierra Nevada that grace my back yard. I plan to intersperse this with medical mission trips throughout the year. Our religious-based facility regularly goes to Central America to provide needed surgery to the local population. Cutting back on my in-patient hours has afforded me this opportunity to contribute in a different sense.

Retirement is something that the physician world has encountered for decades. But it's something relatively new to the PA world - a world where demand for PAs is growing rapidly. We are moving our first large cohort to retirement age, but as America's population continues to grow, the need for care from PAs is expected to surge. Indeed, demand for PAs rose by more than 300 percent over the past three years alone, according to national healthcare search firm Merritt Hawkins.

Luckily, more than 100,000 certified PAs are practicing medicine in every setting and specialty, helping fill an important gap in access to care in areas that traditionally have been medically underserved. So, as some of us look toward retirement, we can also look toward a future of PAs increasing access to healthcare nationwide.

As a PA who has practiced medicine in this evolving world of healthcare for over 40 years, I'm very thankful that I have been given the gift to work in a job that I truly love; making a difference in my community, the lives of the patients who give purpose to my live, while being surrounded by some of the best and brightest minds in medicine. Now is time for me and my family. I look forward to the next, hopefully fulfilling chapter in my life.

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