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Top 10 Things to Love about Early Retirement from Clinical Practice

Maybe you are considering leaving your current job or making a change for good and retiring. While being a physician practicing clinical medicine was a wonderful career in many ways, there is indeed a life outside of medicine.   My reasons to leave clinical medicine  at 37 are complex, and it was not easy to make the decision. To anyone afraid of taking the leap or concerned about what the future would be like, I give you a lighthearted post this week about:
Top 10 things to love about early retirement from clinical practice:

1. Freedom.

Freedom to try new endeavors and find a new passion. When you retire young after working nonstop you will find it hard to sit still. With most of my life still ahead of me, this is not the end but the start of a new beginning. My favorite thing about being retired from clinical practice is the opportunity to explore a second act, because I do think there will be one. Currently, I have about 3 completely different ventures I am working on with my newfound free time.

2. Not setting an alarm clock.


It’s the little things sometimes. Like most people, I have set an alarm clock every day for as far back as I can remember. Granted, even now, I don’t think I have ever slept past 7:00AM (even on the weekends) because of 3 young children, but it feels so good to be woken up by a child instead of a screeching alarm.

3. My answer is “YES”!

For the first time ever, I have a free schedule. A friend has a 40th birthday in another city- I’m there. Someone wants to meet up for lunch- I can do it. One of my kids has soccer, gymnastics, chorus, swimming, basketball, field trip, etc- I am there. I choose to work on projects/opportunities where I am in control of the time commitment and there is maximal flexibility with the hours I can decide to put in. Wow, I have never been able to do that before.

4. I don’t turn into a full out panic if my child gets sick …..

or I get a call from daycare that my son has a fever and someone needs to get him. While illness is a totally normal and expected occurrence with having children, this scenario would be a stress inducing disaster prior to retiring. Inevitably, I would be in the operating room that day with cases booked for hours, or in the office with 21 patients left to see. My husband would likely be stuck traveling for work that day, or in an airplane unable to take the call. We have tried many variations of childcare including nannies, daycare, grandparents for emergencies and even friends who have stepped up to help in these scenarios. Nothing is foolproof and ironically, there is no leeway given to mothers in medicine. Let alone the stress it causes surrounding the work environment, it feels awful as a mother to not be able to get your child when they are sick, and it makes it worse to feel the judgement of others who don’t understand why you can’t be at the day care within 30 minutes to get them. I now love being able to keep my children at home when they aren’t feeling well instead of sending them to school with an upset stomach and praying for the best.

5. I sleep in my own bed at night.

All ob/gyn’s (or any physician who takes night call) will get this one. Enough said.

6. Conferences

Whether it be to explore a new interest and make connections, or simply accompany my husband for the first time on one of his conferences, it is fun to see new places and be able to attend without worrying about how this will impact my partner’s call schedules or feel guilty about taking too much vacation time.

7. Patience.

I never knew what it was like to take my time at a grocery store. To not curse when there is a long line, or get angry when people drive slowly. When you are going 110% at all times and barely getting everything done, there is a level of anxiety that I didn’t even know was there. I see it now in other people when I am out, and I get it. I happily let them go ahead of me in line now. I had no idea how impatient a person I had become until I was able to step back and take a breath.

8. Learning new things.

I never would have learned about the stock market (valuing a company, finding great growths stocks, tax loss harvesting, etc). I never would have discovered how to build a website, become an affiliate partner, create images for use on posts, and connect with like minded people all over the world. Never, did I expect to make a connection with someone in Australia, Israel, or Ireland. I had no idea that the stories could be the same in so many different cultures. Thank you for those who have reached out.

9. I don’t buy ibuprofen anymore.

Stress headaches have vanished.

10. Perspective.

When you are in the middle of a career full of delivering babies, performing hysterectomies, teaching, and caring for wonderful patients you don’t realize how special the career you have truly is. I get it now. I am so grateful for the time I did have in my career. I can now better understand and appreciate “thank you” letters received from patients over time. It is a special thing to care for others and now that I am out of the field, I appreciate those moments even more. There have been no shortage of people who question the ethics of leaving a career in medicine early, and I have considered those opinions in the past.  I hold my colleagues who are practicing to even higher esteem as I am awed by what they do. It is hard work, but it is fulfilling work with a purpose. Kudos to those still in the trenches, you continue to do meaningful work that is no doubt positively impacting lives.

While I could quickly come up with my favorite things about retiring early from medicine, there is always a flip side. In the interest of being completely transparent, next week I will be posting about the top 10 downsides of early retirement from a medical career, because nothing is ever perfect.

What does, or do you hope your retirement will look like?


13 thoughts on “Top 10 Things to Love about Early Retirement from Clinical Practice”

  1. It’s funny, we physicians forget how abnormal life has become. Sleeping in ones own bed and having time at the grocery store sounds so mundane. Yet not the reality for many Docs.

    1. Very true indeed, Doc G. We become accustomed to a way of life, one of sacrifice. However, it makes one appreciate the little things in life that much more once you can enjoy them again. Can you believe the first month I was retired I actually commented how nice it was to be able to eat lunch every day! I’m sure others can relate.

  2. I loved this post! It is so true! After my first child was born, I no longer wanted to stay late or sleep at the hospital. Luckily as an anesthesiologist, there were options within my group where I could have an ‘outpatient’ schedule. I often think of how I could retire from medicine and make a similar income. I’m due with my second in August and will have to see how ll feel about my return to work. Thank you for sharing the positives! I look forward to reading the negatives!

    1. Thanks for the comment trustmeimadoctor. It is rare to find a flexible situation like the one you described (although perhaps more common in anesthesia)? Hopefully you are still enjoying your work, and congrats on baby #2!

  3. I was recently thinking about #7. Since I have gone part time, I feel much less rushed doing errands, like the supermarket you mention. I am not so sure that it is a baseline “anxiety”, per se, that previously made me feel rushed and impatient, but more that I was always behind on my tasks and chores and scheduled my free time like I scheduled procedures, appointments and meetings.

    With less work at 0.6 FTE (and especially much fewer meetings and procedures), the overall pace of life seems pleasantly slower. As I glide toward retirement from my practice, there is a sense of calm that is making me think that I do not want to read next week’s top ten list. 😉

    1. A “sense of calm” is a great way to explain it VagabondMD. That will only increase as you make your way towards retirement. I tried 0.8 FTE prior to retiring but found it to essentially be full time with part time pay. Although, I think 0.6 would be a nice segue and a way to test the waters.

  4. Great post! Although I’m not retired yet, I can relate to a few of your points. I think I’m most looking forward to freedom… freedom to pursue other interests or pick up hobbies that have fallen by the wayside. Not to mention more time to spend with family and friends.

    P.S. I also have a little alarm clock that is set to 7am… 7:30 if we’re lucky.

    1. Yes, SomeRandomGuyOnline, the freedom is probably my favorite part. You may be surprised at what you end up doing once you do retire- I hadn’t planned any of what I am doing now. Good luck and hope your little alarm gives you 7:30 tomorrow!

  5. Retired from family medicine x 4 months. Was feeling gratitude as I crawled into bed last night that there is no more call. No going to sleep knowing the pager could chime in 30 minutes and I’d have to crawl out of bed and make the cold drive to the ED. 😀

    1. Yes, Liz, gratitude for sure! Although, I have to admit that when I drove home at 4 am after delivering a baby, I often thought “I have the best job in the world”. It was just getting out of my warm bed to get there that was the tough part!! congrats on your recent retirement- enjoy

  6. Dr. Jones, it was such a pleasure to meet you at the Harvard Conference. This post is spot on. What can those of us do to get free if we are feeling trapped, not necessarily unhappy, but certainly trapped by money, an old way, and an old mindset? Thank you!

    1. Dr. Mulick! Happy to see you commenting here. So great to meet you last week! You are certainly not alone with feeling “trapped” or perhaps no longer leading the life you should be. Letting go of others expectations or opinions was a big one for me and easy to do once realizing what was important in life. Major illnesses/emergencies/life changing moments will do that to you and give you a gut check. sometimes a blessing in disguise. I am Inspired by your stories and hope others will see your link and check out Keep writing! Hopefully I can feature you and your story when/if you are ready. Also, check out which has some great content for finances.

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