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How Physicians Can Still Use Their Skills in Retirement

April 19, 2022

Folks who are used to managing several responsibilities in a fast-paced work environment often have the hardest time downshifting into retirement. Doctors obviously fall into that category. But a further complication is that doctors often identify who they are with what they do more so than people in other professions. Without an outlet for the highly specialized skills that you developed over your career, those skills — and the investment you made in them — can feel like a sunk cost once you’re preparing for retirement.

However, combining recent developments in medicine with comprehensive Life-Centered Financial Planning can give retiring doctors some options for continuing their life’s work. Here are three ideas worth exploring.

1. Find a locum tenens position.

Post pandemic, many practices are embracing locum tenens as a way to attract top talent and deal with staffing shortages. Essentially, you would work for another practice on a temporary basis, ideally setting work hours that fit with the rest of your retirement schedule. This can be a bit of an adjustment for doctors who are used to running their own practices, as you’ll be expected to fit into another healthcare provider’s workplace.

You could work out an arrangement with a colleague who needs help managing patients short term or seasonally. More commonly, doctors subcontract with an agency that fills vacancies, pays your wages, and provides medical insurance. Some retired doctors even use locum tenens as a way to stay busy while fulfilling some travel goals. Find a doctor looking for short-term help near one of your favorite vacation spots and you might have a lucrative reason to extend your trip by a week or two.

2. Practice telehealth.

According to a study by McKinsey and Company, use of telehealth services has increased 38X from pre-COVID levels. Just as people have become more comfortable using Zoom and other communication technologies during the pandemic, patients have become more comfortable using similar tech to meet with doctors. Telehealth can also help overworked physicians and soon-to-be retirees scale back their office hours and establish a more equitable work-life balance.

There is more to pivoting to telehealth than just buying a better computer and upgrading your home internet. A secure HIPAA-compliant platform that meets your patients’ needs could cost tens of thousands of dollars. Your state of residence could also affect how insurers cover telehealth visits and your liability coverage.

If you’re interested in pursuing telehealth in retirement, you might consider integrating a system into your current practice to see how both you and your patients respond. A careful cost-benefit analysis and consultation with doctors who are using telehealth successfully are essential first steps.

3. Give back.

Are there health-related causes you supported with donations while you were working? Imagine the satisfaction you might feel if you were helping with your own two hands. From volunteering at a local free clinic to working with a larger charitable organization, doctors have many opportunities to provide medical assistance to folks in need. Some of these missions extend beyond basic health care services to include training, lectures, and workshops, creating a sustainable impact that will last long after you’ve come home.

You could also teach part time or mentor the next generation of physicians. Younger doctors will benefit from your lifetime of experience, and you’ll stay connected to the latest developments and broader perspectives in your field.

Retirement might be the end of your medical career. But it doesn’t have to be the end of your passion for practicing medicine. Our Life-Centered Planning tools can help you find fulfilling new ways to apply your skills and improve Return on Life for you, your family, and your patients.

Content in this material is for general information only and not intended to provide specific advice or recommendations for any individual.