While some physicians look forward to pursuing travel and other interests upon retirement, others are not quite so ready to give up the mental stimulation and meaningful fulfillment that a job can offer.
Because leaving a demanding and personally defining career such as medicine can be a mentally challenging process, the American Medical Association (AMA) recommends a gradual transition to retirement, with a tapering of professional responsibilities. The association also recommends retired physicians pursue meaningful activities that will offer a sense of purpose during retirement.
With this advice in mind, here are seven great jobs for the retired or semi-retired physician.
Perhaps you’re not quite ready to hang up your stethoscope and white coat just yet. If that’s the case, consider becoming a locum tenens doctor. Locum tenens, from the Latin “to hold the place of,” is a good option for docs who maintain licensure and still want to work—but without the rigors of a 60-hour workweek.
Locum tenens jobs are pretty easy to score—especially if you’re flexible about location. Ever wanted to work in a mining town in Nevada for a little while? How about a rural community in Alaska? Go for it!
All you need to do is give your name to a recruiter at a staffing agency (hint: check your email’s spam folder), and the offers will likely start rolling in. Locum tenens jobs can last from a week to a month, with various options in between.
The field of consulting may bring to mind the image of young professionals climbing the rungs of the corporate ladder at firms like McKinsey, Boston Consulting Group, or Bain & Company (“the Big 3”). However, plenty of other consulting opportunities are available to retired physicians. Institutional, governmental (eg, Social Security Administration), legal (eg, expert witness), biotech, and pharma companies often require medical consultants for insight on issues related to policy, product, and liability. The key is leveraging the right connections. But hey, what are friends for? A friend in need is a friend indeed.
Working part-time as a telemedicine physician can be quite an enjoyable experience for a retired physician. All you need is a bit of computer smarts, a laptop, and a reliable Internet connection. You can work remotely from the comfort of your own home to the coziness of your favorite coffee haunt. The money can be good, too, with average earnings of $102 per hour.
Of note, asynchronous telemedicine opportunities are also available. These consults pay a bit less, but they are typically quick and can be done by email or text. Ah, the wonders of technology!
You’re familiar with the mantra “see one, do one, teach one”—after all, that’s how you built up a professional skillset and passed these skills forward. As a retired physician, perhaps you could concentrate on the last part: teaching. Maybe you’re already teaching at your medical school or residency program and wish to continue in this capacity. Or, maybe you’re looking for a change of environment and want to teach courses like anatomy or physiology at the undergraduate level. You could also choose to teach at nursing or physician assistant programs. The (teaching) world is your oyster!
You’ve spent your life working for the man, so why not become the man? The need for qualified healthcare administrators is on the rise. The job generally entails facility management and staff oversight. Administrators shape and enforce the rules and regulations of the organization. They also manage budgets, marketing campaigns, and human resources.
Importantly, although clinical experience and knowledge are invaluable assets to many successful administrators, healthcare administration is a different beast from clinical practice. Consequently, physicians with MBAs, MHAs, and other similar degrees are best prepared to excel in this role.
Writing and editing
Perhaps you imagine yourself as the next Lawrence K. Altman, Atul Gawande, Samuel Shem, or Khaled Hosseini—all best-selling physician authors. Or, maybe you’re more interested in writing and editing for more quotidian publications, including health-consumer websites or peer-reviewed journals. Either way, for those inclined, writing and editing in your golden years can be a wonderful release.
A few words of advice: Professional writing is rooted in style, and docs who write professionally are likely proficient in three main style treatises: the AP Stylebook (mostly for news, features, and the web), the Chicago Manual of Style (mostly for book publication), and the AMA Manual of Style (for all things medicine). However odd this may sound, geeking out with these style manuals is a great source of joy and inspiration for many budding health writers.
Returning to university and attaining a journalism graduate degree may be challenging during retirement, but certification programs are also available. For instance, the University of Chicago Graham School offers an online medical writing and editing certificate that can be completed online in less than a year. Additionally, the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) offers various certificates, including the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences (BELS) certification.
In a rapidly changing world full of disruptive technology, many younger physicians are inclined to embrace new technologies. Meanwhile, older physicians may prefer to practice in international locales where medicine depends more on clinical skills than technology. Furthermore, an expired license may not prove preclusive for international physician volunteers. Possible non-profits of interest for those intent on seeking out international medical volunteer opportunities include the American Red Cross, Health Volunteers Overseas, and—of course—Doctors Without Borders.
Whatever route you choose to take after retirement, don’t put off thinking about it. Retirement doesn’t have to be the end of your medical career—it may simply be an extension of it, but at a more enjoyable pace.