Retirement: Not Yet


I've heard I am retiring.  That’s news to me.  Several patients have told me so, something they heard from another doctor, healthcare provider, a friend-of-a-friend or some dude in a bar.  Whatever the case may be, I’m not retiring.  Not for a long while anyway, unless you all know something I don’t. 

About a year and a half ago I stopped doing surgery in the O.R. and no longer see patients in the hospital and E.R.s.  I’ve limited my practice to an outpatient clinic setting (a.k.a. “the office”).  The practice remains quite busy and our schedule is full.  And since I no longer take call, no longer worry about postop patients or really sick folks lying in the hospitals, no longer dread the late-night calls or the nightmarish transfer from another facility, life has become a bit less stressful.  I suppose some would call this semi-retirement.  My hours have decreased to a more manageable 40-50 hours per week.  For nonmedical folks, these “semi-retirement” work hours may sound crazy…or stupid…or both crazy and stupid.  Crazy-stupid.  Yep, that’s a for-real compound word—I saw it on the internet.

But there is great value in work.  And work done well for the sake of another is the epitome of what it is to be human.  Call me crazy-stupid, but I’m not alone in this belief.  There are doctors who refuse to retire, practicing in their 80s and 90s, until they are incapacitated or die.  Medicine is a calling.  After years and years of schooling and training, living and breathing the art of medicine and surgery, it’s forever ingrained in us.  That’s the reason our profession is a calling rather than a career.  It’s in our blood.  Even for those who completely retire from practice, they never really retire from medicine.  I’ve seen retired physicians still attending medical society meetings and CME (Continuing Medical Education) conferences.  It’s hard to shut off your brain, or your heart.

This calling still has great purpose.  Operating a business has great purpose—helping my staff provide for their families gives me great joy.  The workplace has been more pleasant now that much (but not all) of the stress has declined.  I bring little more of myself into the equation, more personal attributes and likewise have the patient do the same.  This makes for a more meaningful, and hopefully a more productive and successful, encounter.

So I’m going to keep on practicing unless, God forbid, some calamity befalls me or the office.  Or if the demands of regulatory burdens, insurance hassles or those damn E.H.R.s become so onerous, sucking more irreplaceable time and quality-of-life, then I’ll take down my shingle.

But until then, I’m still here, still in practice, and despite what you all may or may not have heard, I am not retired.

©Randall S. Fong, M.D.

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