Medical Practice and Retirement
Medical training has been described as a prolonged state of adolescence. This is because financial, social, and emotional independence, the hallmark of adult maturity, usually eludes trainees until the completion of their residency training. In the medical center, close supervision is a way of life; relatively little trainee freedom exists for independent thought or action. But this changes precipitously when physicians finally leave the confines of the teaching hospital and venture forth into the community to make it on their own.
The prolonged training period required to become a specialized physician--four years of undergraduate work, four years of medical school, and two to seven years of residency training, depending upon the specialty--usually prolongs this adolescence-like period of dependence into the thirties. Then, upon entering medical practice, the physician is essentially told to "grow up."
Although the shift from dependence to independence may be eagerly anticipated, it is not always an easy transition. At age thirty, with financial, marital, and emotional debts to pay and many new challenges to confront, life can be complicated.
Unfortunately, little is said or done in medical school or postgraduate training to prepare physicians for this relatively uncharted course. Nor has much been written about the challenging psychosocial dilemmas that typically confront practicing physicians. Aside from romanticized television "soap operas," very little has been generated in the mass media about this developmental stage of