Inside Doctoring: Stages and Outcomes in the Professional Development of Physicians

By Robert H. Coombs; D. Scott May et al. | Go to book overview

A Physician's Prologue to Retirement

William J. Perry

Physicians approaching retirement or semiretirement will eventually face to some degree an emotional response to this change, including equating the loss of practice with the loss of status. The response will vary with the intensity of the person's previous dedication to medicine, current mental and physical status, and misgivings regarding both the good and bad in his or her practice years. Some will weather this transposition without overt emotional decay. For me, the hiatus between the two phases of my life seemed interminable, but once the decision was made, I knew it was best not to look back.

"There is no heavier burden than a great opportunity." This roadside sign, without advertising, stood majestically atop a hillside on a secure pedestal, as if to amplify its meaning and lend credence to its text. The words haunted me during my emotional travel north up the interstate to investigate a position removed from the pressures of solo practice. The journey was my first step in preparing for semiretirement. I was looking forward to shorter and less complicated work days, vacations that could be enjoyed without mentally calculating the monetary loss caused by being away from the office, and the freedom my wife and I would mutually enjoy with this new endeavor. The temptation to turn south, however, back toward home was nearly overwhelming, for that sunken feeling of loneliness for what I was leaving behind could not be relieved even by the thought and expectation of a "great opportunity."

The scale between burden and great opportunity was not balanced at this stage of the venture. The anonymous quotation from the sign has or will have great meaning to those approaching voluntary retirement in comfort or involuntary retirement due to unfortunate circumstances. Retirement is the beginning of a great burden--psychologically, financially, and physically. I know I can't

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