I started thinking about an early retirement in late 2014. I’ve read extensively on the topic in the interim, and I started writing about it in early 2016. When you write about early retirement, you think about early retirement. A lot.
I ask myself questions. Why do I want this? What will retirement look like for me? How will it change life for my family and me? I think I’ve got some pretty good answers and of course, I’ll be sharing them with you in due time.
The fact that I actually like my job most of the time makes these answers a little tougher to answer. I’ve written about how my job and financial security gives me fulfillment at Fulfilled Physicians. I have shared the Top 5 Reasons I Didn’t Retire at 39.
Being an anesthesiologist is actually a pretty cool job as far as jobs go. It comes with some drawbacks, and I’ll be writing about those, too. When I contemplate my future, I think about what I can look forward to, but I also have to consider the things I will miss.
Retirement doesn’t have to be a permanent decision, but I’m not going to take the early retirement path on a whim. After all, to borrow the closing line from the underappreciated 2009 movie Fanboys, “Wait, what if it sucks?”
After a string of some pretty rough call shifts, it would be really easy to write about the things I won’t miss. But my glass remains half-full. When the job beats me down, it’s a good time to focus on the positive.
The Top 5 Things I’ll Miss When I Retire Early
Teamwork is a key component to a successful O.R. experience for both the patient and the entire O.R. crew. I spend a lot of time with our surgeons, circulating nurses, nurse anesthetists, scrub techs, pre-op and PACU nurses, and ancillary staff around the hospital. We learn how to work best with one another, and we learn about each others’ families, upcoming vacations, childhood stories, etc…
We also save lives together and rely on each other to do what needs to be done and find what needs to be found in crisis situations. Bonds are formed.
Your coworkers may not be your best friends, and there may be a few you won’t miss, but once you retire, you will never again do the incredible things that almost seemed routine when you worked together. On the golf course, you won’t direct one of your buddies to fetch an 8 French introducer, send another to the blood bank while the third member of your foursome sets up for a crash ex-lap. And that’s probably a good thing. But the type of camaraderie you develop with coworkers in the hospital and operating room is tough to replicate.
2. Being with patients at critical times.
As an anesthesiologist, I take care of patients during some of the most memorable and important days in their lives. I take away their labor pains on the day Mom brings a child into the world. I might be called upon to intubate the newborn baby in the first few minutes of her life. Sometimes I get involved in the final minutes of one’s life, intubating or securing IV access when our team is taking desperate measures to combat what is often an inevitable and unfortunate endpoint in a code situation.
Even “routine” surgeries are not routine for the patient. What happens every day in my world only happens a handful of times in most people’s lives. I see patients on the day they receive a new knee or hip, have a cancer removed from their body, or a port placed to help fight one. These are crucial events for my patients.
It is a privilege to be part of a team that does extraordinary things to help ensure the patient’s comfort and safety throughout their surgical experience. I enjoy connecting with patients when we visit before surgery, answering questions and alleviating fears.
While the perception of anesthesiologists is that our patients are “sleeping”, I typically supervise three or four rooms, and I spend much of my day speaking with patients and their families.
Earlier this week, I visited with 33 surgical patients at our surgical center before noon. I also filled out a preoperative evaluation on paper for each of them, performed three ultrasound-guided peripheral nerve blocks, and held several small hands while the other held a stuffed animal as child and animal drifted off together into another world for a brief spell. While I won’t miss the frenzied pace of a day like that day, I will miss the patients. And the animals.
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3. A paycheck.
Once I hang up the stethoscope, the direct deposits will end abruptly. [Thank you, Dr. Obvious.] While this won’t really be a problem, as I have a plan to have more than Enough and I’ve got a drawdown plan as outlined in my IPS, I’m going to miss watching the net worth get a nice little nudge every couple weeks. I track mine with Personal Capital and it’s rather addicting.
Early retirement wouldn’t be a consideration unless I knew my family and I would be fine without the paycheck. But I reserve the right to miss it.
Most patients are really thankful for the work that I do. Not only do I get to be a part of some landmark moments for them, but they are happy to have me on their side.
When the aforementioned labor patient makes the transition from a writhing, screaming hellhound to smiling, happy puppydog in a matter of minutes, the magic man with the epidural skills feels very much appreciated. Not only by the finally-calm patient, but also by the Dad, the parents and in-laws, and especially the patient’s nurse.
5. Free Food!
What can I say? I’m kind of a frugal physician and there’s no better deal than free. Over 18 years of education, training, and work, I’ve been treated to hundreds of free meals and thousands of free snacks. I’ve worked locums at places with spectacular physician’s lounges where hot meals are catered three times a day.
Our staff and patients bring baked goods in to the lounge all the time, and my wife is a frequent contributor. Reps aren’t allowed to spoil us like they once did, but we still seem to get more than our fair share of doughnuts and bagels.
Again, food is something I can easily afford to pay for myself. It will be weird though, to be expected to actually pay for nearly every meal, cookie, and banana my belly desires. Thankfully, there will always be samples at Costco. Good old Costco.
Maybe retirement won’t be so bad after all.